(FORT FRANCES, ON)–Officers of the Rainy River District Detachment of the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) remind snowmobilers to slow down and be aware of changing ice, snow and trail conditions.
As spring arrives, local officers have already responded to serious collisions involving snowmobiles that have resulted in rider needing serious medical response.
As snow melts, riding surfaces change and hazards will appear. With no snow, ice surfaces change and so does the rider’s ability to stop quickly.
This year, the OPP released a ten-year data report on snowmobile fatalities, which officers hope will encourage snowmobilers to avoid behaviours that continue to contribute to the majority of the crashes.
During the past 10 snowmobile seasons, from 2009-2019, the OPP has investigated 175 snowmobile fatalities. Among the findings in the report, excessive speed, loss of control, driving too fast for the conditions and ability impaired by alcohol were listed as the top contributing factors. Alcohol was involved in almost half (45 per cent) of the deaths.
Another compelling fact is that almost half (45 per cent) of the snowmobilers who died were traveling on frozen lakes or rivers at the time of the incident. The circumstances that led to deaths included intentionally driving onto open water (puddle jumping/water skipping), breaking through the ice and collisions with other snowmobiles and natural landmarks.
“Our data tells us that the vast majority of snowmobile fatalities we investigate are preventable and the result of snowmobilers taking unnecessary risks. There is particular importance of riding alcohol and drug-free so riders can maintain control of their equipment at all times and remain mindful of the unique and increased risks associated with snowmobiling,” said Sergeant Ann McEwen, Rainy River District OPP.
“Whether you are a beginner or seasoned snowmobiler, it is important to avoid all manner of risk while enjoying the thousands of kilometres of diverse, scenic snowmobile trails Ontario has to offer. Maintain control of your snowmobile at all times, watching for hazards appearing from areas of melting snow such as rocks or hazards such as docks or concrete structures,” said Constable Jim Davis, Atikokan OPP.
The OPP is reminding operators that no ice is safe ice. All riders should ensure they use proper safety equipment and appropriate outerwear for the conditions they may encounter.