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Arthur Elk: Stay safe on your snowmobile this winter

By Arthur Elk

Northeast Ohio was hit hard by snow this week. For many, that means the frustration of longer commutes, dangerous roads and shoveling snow. But for others, the piles of snow mean the opportunity to break out their snowboards or gas up their snowmobiles.

More than 2 million Americans enjoy snowmobiling every winter. It’s a fun, exciting pastime that riders of all ages can enjoy. However, the weight of the vehicle and the high-speed capability of the vehicle can be a dangerous combination, especially for new riders or riders who are impaired by alcohol. Snowmobile accidents result in more than 14,000 injuries and 200 deaths each year in the United States.

A 48-year-old Ashtabula County man died Tuesday evening after he crashed his snowmobile.  Authorities said the snowmobile ran off the right side of the road, striking a ditch and then a tree, where Steven Pawlowski, who troopers said was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash, was ejected from the vehicle. Police said they believe alcohol may have been a factor but the crash is still under investigation.

One of the greatest risk factors for having an accident on a snowmobile, as with every motor vehicle, is drinking alcohol. Drinking alcohol before operating any kind of motorized vehicle is never a smart choice. It slows your reflexes and affects your decision-making process. And when you are traveling at speeds up to 90 mph on a 600-pound snowmobile, every second counts.

For a safe and enjoyable season, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources offers these tips:

  • Always keep your machine in top mechanical condition.
  • Always wear insulated boots and protective clothing including a helmet, gloves and eye protection.
  • Never ride alone.
  • Avoid, when possible, crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Never operate in a single file when crossing frozen bodies of water.
  • Always be alert to avoid fences and low strung wires.
  • Never operate on a street or highway.
  • Always look for depressions in the snow.
  • Keep headlights and taillights on at all times.
  • When approaching an intersection, come to a complete stop, raise off the seat and look for traffic.
  • Always check the weather conditions before you depart.

So get out there and enjoy the snow while you can, and remember these tips. I hope you all have a safe and fun snowmobiling season.