Students learn about snowmobile safety

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 12/2/97.

All aspects of operating a snowmobile were covered in a snowmobile training class for students ages 12 to 16 recently. On Nov. 26, 47 students took the last phase of the class, a driven test at the Paynesville Area High School.

Leading the students through the classroom phase were: Larry and Jan Mathison, Brian Peglusch, Mike Christen, Vic Wyffels, and Bob Brauchler.

The class met four times. The class stressed snowmobile safety, state laws, respecting other peoples property, and staying off thin ice.

During the course of the classes, Chuck Nelson, Paynesville DNR officer, Paynesville Police Officer Kent Kortlever, and Dave Schutz of the Paynesville Ambulance Service, talked with the students about various laws.

On Nov. 26, the students had to do a prestart checklist on their snowmobile with Jean Christen before they were allowed to drive the course. ďKids need to know what is required before driving,Ē Brauchler stressed.

ďThe amount of practice most youth need for riding as a group under trail conditions, is beyond the scope of the program and must be the responsibility of a parent or guardian,Ē Brauchler said.

Students were instructed to:

  • Ride straightóno alcohol or drugs.
  • Stay to the right on trails.
  • Let weather and trail conditions determine safe speeds.
  • Use your headlight and taillight.
  • Maintain proper spacing when riding with others.
  • Reduce speed when riding at night.
  • Always yield to other motor vehicles.
  • Stay clear of thin ice and lake inlets, never cross open water.
  • Never ride alone, use the buddy system.
  • Stay on groomed area of trails.

    Obey all laws and regulations...
    1) Maximum speed in Minnesota is 50 miles per hour.
    2) Display current snowmobile registration.
    3) Stay off the roadway, shoulder, and slope of state and county highways.
    4) Operate your snowmobile in the same direction as highway traffic.
    5) Be sure any youth operating your snowmobile has a safety certificate.
    6) Stay off the median of four-lane highways.
    7) Cross public roadways at a 90 degree angle.
    8) Come to a complete stop before crossing a public roadway.
    9) Check local ordinances on when and where you may ride.

    In Paynesville:

  • It is a misdemeanor for any person under the age of 14 years to operate a snowmobile on streets and highways.
  • It is a misdemeanor for any person to operate a snowmobile in excess of 15 miles per hour on city streets.
  • Operation of snowmobiles shall be limited to passing through the city, and for residents, they shall be limited to going in a direct line to an out-of-town destination, or returning to the place of residence or place of housing within the city.

    Driving on ice
    Brauchler stressed the importance of safety when driving on ice. Literature stresses if you drive on ice, remember it is only a film across a water surface. Weight moving across this film causes it to bend up and down in the form of long waves which roll out and away from a vehicle as is moves across the ice.

    U.S. Army researchers discovered that wave action may crack the ice if the vehicle is moving at a critical speed (see chart). Speeds above or below this critical speed substantially reduce the danger of cracking. Higher speeds are usually not recommended for other reasons, except over very shallow water. So drive slowly. Following behind other snowmobiles is not recommended, since you may interrupt their wave action with your own, causing a break in what would otherwise be safe ice.

    A new law that aims to improve snowmobile safety means many teenagers will be taking snowmobile safety courses in the future.

    The Minnesota Legislature passed a law last session that requires snowmobile operators born after Dec. 31, 1979, to have a valid snowmobile certificate effective Oct. 1, 1998. Since snowmobile safety courses are held only during fall and winter months, teenagers need to be certified for the 1998 snowmobile season.

    ďThose not taking the course will not be able to legally operate a snowmobile on public lands during the first part of next yearís snowmobile season,Ē Jeff Thielen, DNR education coordinator, said.

    New regulations:

  • Effective Oct. 1, 1998, persons born after Dec. 31, 1976 must possess a snowmobile safety certificate.
  • Studded tracts prohibited on paved DNR trails.
  • Loss of driverís license upon second conviction of operation while intoxicated.
  • Snowmobile safety training required for certain convictions.
  • Nonresident snowmobile permit required on snowmobile trails.
  • Snowmobile registration fee increases, $45 for three years.
  • Helmets required for persons under 18 years of age.

    ďWe are currently developing a new course for students who are age 18 and over,Ē Thielen said. ďUnlike the traditional youth and young adult safety course, this curriculum would focus more heavily on the major causes of accidents, including speed, alcohol, stopping distances, and overdriving headlights during night riding.

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