Snowmobile safety stressed to 61 students

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 12/3/96.

Safety was stressed in a local snowmobile class recently. Sixty-one students ranging in age from 12 to 16 completed the course which started Nov. 11. The students met at the high school for four two-hour sessions. On Nov. 27, the students completed their driver test which involved maneuvering a snowmobile on an obstacle course.

The instructors stressed safety, first aid and the rules of snowmobiling. ãThe students were required to go over the manual and know the basic operation of the snowmobile, how to check the machine before starting it each time, and the laws,ä Bob Brauchler said.

The students were also cautioned about how long it takes for a snowmobile to stop. If a driver is traveling 50 miles per hour, once the brakes are applied, the snowmobile will skid to a stop in about 213 feet. The faster the speed, the longer the skid before stopping, Brauchler stressed.

The instructors told the students that they do not expect a high level of operating skill from them due to lack of previous experience, but only that they demonstrate basic knowledge of required skills. The 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.

When riding on public lands and waters, grant-in-aid trails, or across roadways, youths ages 12 to 17 are required to have a snowmobile safety training certificate.

The students were taught not to operate a snowmobile in excess of 50 miles per hour on any public lands or waters; in excess of the posted speed limits on a trail; at a speed greater than various trail, terrain and visibility conditions dictate.

Guest speakers talking to the students were Chuck Nelson, DNR, ambulance crew members and Bill Drager, Paynesville Police Chief.

Drager stressed the snowmobile laws to the students. It is unlawful for anyone under 14 years of age to operate a snowmobile within the city limits of Paynesville. A person 14 years of age or older, may operate a snowmobile only if he has a certificate from the snowmobile safety course. The city ordinance states it is illegal for any person to operate a snowmobile in excess of 15 miles per hour on city streets. Operation of such vehicles shall be limited to passing through the city, and for residents of the city, shall be limited to going in a direct line to an out-of-town destination, or returning home.

Instructors were members of the Koronis Hills Snowmobile Club: Bob Brauchler, Victor Wyffels, Mike Christen, Jerry Kennedy, Jeff Tougas, Larry Mathison and Brian Paglusch. Two of the first teachers were Bill Legatt and Arnie Minette.

Snowmobile facts:
ðAbout 75 percent of all snowmobile deaths can be traced to alcohol and excessive speed.

ðFactors such as noise, wind, cold and vibration can greatly slow your reaction time, especially when combined with the effects of alcohol.

ðIf found guilty of operating a snowmobile while intoxicated, you could be fined up to $700, lose your snowmobile operating privileges, and possibly spend time in jail.

ðMost snowmobiling deaths occur after dark.

ðThe main causes of fatal snowmobile accidents are collisions with fixed objects or other vehicles.

ðOn public lands and waters, snowmobiles should operate at a speed that is reasonable and proper but no more than the maximum of 50 miles per hour.

ðThe most fatal accidents occur around 6 p.m.

ðThe safest days of the week to snowmobile are Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. The most fatal accidents occur on Saturday.

ðWhere do most accidents happen? On lakes or streams and road right-of-ways. Twenty-nine snowmobilers were killed on lakes or streams from 1991-95 and a total of 565 were injured while 808 accidents were reported on road right-of-way with 26 killed.

ðWhat were the major causes of accidents? Thirty-eight fatalities occurred when the snowmobile struck a fixed object and 15 deaths were recorded from 1991-96 when machine hit machine.

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