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As deaths mount, DNR stresses snowmobile safety in Minnesota

Since the winter of 2017-18, there have been 18 snowmobile deaths in Minnesota.

Just scratching the surface of snowmobiling season in Minnesota, there have already been three snowmobile-related deaths and other close calls, prompting the Department of Natural Resources to stress the importance of riding safe. 

“We want people enjoying the Minnesota winter, but we want them to do it safely,” said Bruce Lawrence, recreational vehicle coordinator with the DNR’s Enforcement Division.

Since the 2017-18 winter, a total of 18 snowmobile riders have been killed in Minnesota. 

Additionally, a 32-year-old Minnesota man died in a snowmobile crash in Colorado this week, while five Minnesota men were rescued during a snowmobile trip in Montana after one of the rider's snowmobiles went through thin ice, stranding them in near-blizzard conditions. 

There are 22,000 miles of snowmobile trails in Minnesota, in addition to to the lakes and ditches outdoor enthusiasts enjoy. But the DNR warns that many of the trails aren't yet groomed this early in the winter, while ice thickness varies across lakes and waterways. 

To be as safe as possible, the DNR recommends: 

  • Stay on marked trails. 
  • Don't drink and drive.
  • Watch your speed. 
  • Be careful on ice. 
  • Take a snowmobile safety course. 

Alcohol is among the leading factors in snowmobile crashes, and contributes to about 60 percent of all fatal crashes, according to the DNR. The other leading cause of crashes is speeding, which leads to many serious and fatal accidents as riders lose control or strike objects. 

Earlier this month, a young man was walking on a lake near Faribault when an intoxicated 20-year-old hit him with his snowmobile. The 20-year-old has been charged with criminal vehicular operation while the 23-year-old victim was critically injured

The DNR says waterways must have at least 5-7 inches of new, clear ice to be considered safe for snowmobiles and ATVs. 

“Passing along your passion for the outdoors is one of the greatest gifts you can give another person,” Lawrence said. “By modeling safe behavior, you can ensure that passion lives on in youngsters and new snowmobile riders.”

Get more safety tips from the DNR here

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