Despite a rather sporadic snowmobile season this year, the number of fatal snowmobile crashes is still holding near the historic average at 12.
However locally, for the second consecutive year Lincoln County has had zero reported crashes.
According to Lincoln County/southwestern Oneida County DNR conservation warden Pat Novesky, the number of crashes is not only holding around the state average but many of the same historic trends are holding true as well.
“Each victim has been male. Alcohol and speed has been a factor in each of the crashes,” he explains.
“The age bracket of victims has been a relatively new trend however. This year we are seeing a majority of victims being in their 40’s, which is an interesting trend as the age of the victims of snowmobile crashes is not the young riders as expected, but more the middle age 40-50 year olds. Average age of victims in previous few years has been 41-60 years of age”
“The youngest victim this season has been 23, whereas the oldest has been 63. “
Novesky explains a variety of possible factors for the age trend including younger riders being more likely to have recently completed a snowmobile safety course and the speeds/capabilities of machines mismatched with rider experience and skill level.
Other key facts regarding this year’s fatalities include:
• 9 accidents occurred at night
• 10 struck another vehicle or object
• 1 went through the ice
• Alcohol consumption was a factor in 8, speed in 8 as well
• 7 happened on a designated trail or road route
• Only 3 riders took a snowmobile safety class
• Speed, Alcohol, and nighttime operation are factors every year(historically alcohol is involved in about 60-70% of fatal accidents)
Documentation of non-fatal accidents is difficult to accurately report, Novesky adds. Injuries sustained in crashes go unreported.
The last fatal crash to occur in Lincoln County occurred on December 28, 2014 in the Town of Bradley, when a snowmobile passenger was ejected as a result of the snowmobile striking a bump. The passenger was then struck by another snowmobile following behind.
As for tips to maintain a crash free season and future, Novesky offers these pointers:
• Zero Alcohol while riding, This is a national campaign to reduce snowmobile deaths
• Slow Down! Speed is a factor is almost all snowmobile accidents
• Avoid travelling off trails across bodies of water– Here in river country & especially this year due to the higher water levels ice is very inconsistent in thickness.
• Stay on marked trails – This makes it less likely that you can hit fences, telephone poles, tree stumps, ice shacks etc.
• Never travel alone- if you must make sure you tell someone your destination & when you plan to return
• Carry a first aid kit- Take a basic first aid class, and be confident you can render aid to someone in your group or another group if you need to.
• Take a safety class– All riders should take a snowmobile safety class & it is required for all riders born after Jan 1 1985.
• Keep your speed under 55mph at night– This is required by law, but proven to reduce the likelihood of outdriving what your headlights illuminate and missing a curve or failing to see an object in the trail
For more information on documented snowmobile crashes, visit http://dnr.wi.gov