Illinois Snowmobile Operators Reminded to Focus on Sled Safety

Chris Young
Illinois Snowmobile Operators Reminded to Focus on Sled Safety
SPRINGFIELD, IL � The Illinois Department of Natural Resources (IDNR) is reminding snowmobile operators to focus on safety this fall and winter to avoid accidents and serious injuries while enjoying time on the snow and ice.

�We want everyone who spends time outdoors enjoying winter recreation to be safe, and snowmobile operators and riders need to be particularly cautious,� said IDNR Conservation Police Chief Rafael Gutierrez. �Snowmobile operators should stay on designated snowmobile trails and be aware of possible obstructions to avoid accidents and possible injuries.�  

While Illinois has not yet had much snow this season, autumn cold snaps and periodic snowfall should prompt snowmobile operators to think ahead about safety.  Sled owners and operators should review the rules of operation; have registration and insurance in place; never drink and drive a snowmobile; and, always have landowner permission to ride and respect private property rights, the environment, other snowmobilers, and other people outdoors enjoying winter recreation.

During the 2013-14 winter season in Illinois, there were 27 snowmobile incidents reported, resulting in five fatalities.  Safety experts report that in North America, more than half of all snowmobile fatalities involve intoxicated operators. 

While the IDNR encourages everyone to take a snowmobile safety course before their first ride of the season, state law requires that persons at least 12 years of age and less than 16 years must have in possession a valid Snowmobile Safety Education Certificate of Competency issued by IDNR in order to operate a snowmobile alone. Some traditional instructor-led safety courses administered by the IDNR are still available in the coming weeks.  Snowmobilers can also satisfy state safety requirements by taking one of two online courses to become familiar with safe sledding practices or for a refresher course on staying safe. Details are available on the IDNR website at

Basic safety tips for safe snowmobiling include:

� Never consume alcohol before or during a ride;
� Know your equipment, and make sure that equipment is in proper working order;
� Wear sensible, protective clothing designed for snowmobiling, like a full-size helmet, goggles, or face shield to prevent injuries from twigs, stones, ice chips, and flying debris;
� Avoid wearing long scarves, which may get caught in moving parts of the snowmobile;
� Know the terrain you are going to ride. If unfamiliar to you, ask someone who has traveled over it before.  Be aware of trails or portions of trails that may be closed;
� Drowning is one cause of snowmobile fatalities. When not familiar with the thickness of the ice or water currents, avoid these areas;
� Know the weather forecast, and especially the ice and snow conditions in the area;
� Always use the buddy system. Never ride alone or unaccompanied;
� Travel at a reasonable rate of speed for your visibility and conditions.

Snowmobile operators and other outdoor recreation enthusiasts are reminded that a minimum of 4 inches of snow cover must be present for snowmobile use on state-managed property.  Those interested in visiting IDNR state sites should call ahead to site offices to get the latest snow conditions and trail closure information.  Violations can result in a minimum $120 fine and possible arrest.   For a list of site offices/contact information, check the IDNR website at
Follow IDNR on Facebook and Twitter