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DNR urges snowmobile safety

Recent snowfall is bringing out more Minnesota snowmobilers. That means there's an increased chance of an accident, according to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

There were six snowmobile-related deaths in Minnesota during the 2012 snowmobile season. That compares to 13 fatalities in 2011 and 19 fatalities in 2010.

The usual causes of snowmobile accidents are operator inexperience, driving under the influence of alcohol and drugs, and high speeds.

Captain Mike Hammer, DNR enforcement education program coordinator, noted that today's sleds can easily do 70, if not 100, miles per hour. Unfortunately, they don't stop like a vehicle or offer the same protection. The speed limit for all snowmobile trails and public lands and waters is 50 miles per hour.

Going too fast can cause snowmobile drivers to "overdrive" their snowmobile's headlight. It can take a much longer distance to stop on ice than the headlight shines.

Snowmobilers need to be alert on all trails, as some might go over ponds or lakes where the ice is not formed yet.

Many accidents also happen when snowmobiles collide with fixed objects such as trees, fences, stumps, rocks, logs and culverts.

Minnesota residents born after December 31, 1976, must complete a DNR snowmobile safety training course before they can legally ride a snowmobile anywhere in Minnesota, including private land.

DNR snowmobile safety courses can be completed by either attending a snowmobile safety training course from a DNR-certified instructor or by CD.

To obtain the Snowmobile Safety Training CD, or for general information, call (651) 296-6157, 1-888-646-6367 or 1-800-366-8917, visit or e-mail