Snowmobiling season isn't long in Kansas and Missouri, but people are injured and killed every year nonetheless. That's why the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association sponsors a safety week every January. Now is a good time brush up on some basic riding safety tips.

Dangers of Snowmobiles

Neither Kansas nor Missouri have much regulation on snowmobile operation aside from limitations on where you can ride. In general, snowmobiles are only allowed on designated trails and an annual registration fee is required. Because they're not street-legal vehicles, an operator doesn't need a driver’s license, which also means there isn't a minimum legal age to ride a snowmobile.

For these reasons, snowmobiles can pose a serious threat to riders, bystanders, and passengers. In a report first issued in 2000 and reaffirmed in 2010, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) warned of the dangers of snowmobiles to children and teens. Of the 10,000 injuries treated in emergency departments in 1997 and 1998, 10 percent were children under the age of 15. The AAP recommends only allowing licensed drivers 16 and older to operate snowmobiles.

According to data cited in Clinical Orthopedics and Related Research in 2003, there are nearly 14,000 injuries and 200 deaths caused by snowmobile accidents across the country each year. Broken bones and head trauma are among the most common injuries reported. The leading causes of accidents are excessive speed, alcohol impairment, driver inexperience, and poor judgement.

International Snowmobile Safety Weeksnowmobiles

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) unites all four snowmobile manufacturers with the purpose of educating riders and promoting riding safety. It encourages local snowmobile clubs to sponsor events during safety week, including safety courses and clinics, press conferences, issuing media releases, and holding “Safe Rides” or “Bring a Friend” events. Through local organizations, the goal of ISMA is to spread the word about safe riding techniques.

Here are basic safety tips every rider should know:

  1. Never consume alcohol or drugs before or during snowmobiling.
  2. Become familiar with the snowmobile you ride.
  3. Operate at safe and reasonable speeds.
  4. Stay on trails and areas where snowmobiling is permitted.
  5. Avoid travel on unfamiliar frozen bodies of water.
  6. Use extra caution at night.
  7. Keep your snowmobile properly maintained.
  8. Become familiar with the terrain you will travel on.
  9. Listen to the weather forecast before you leave.
  10. Always wear a helmet and proper clothing.
  11. Never ride alone, and let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return.
  12. Learn survival skills, and pack emergency supplies.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission adds the following important tips:

  • Watch the path ahead to avoid rocks, trees, fences (particularly barbed wire), ditches, and other obstacles.
  • Slow down at the top of a hill. A cliff, snow bank, or other unforeseen hazard could be on the other side.
  • Don’t hurdle snow banks. You have control only when your skis are on the ground.
  • Don't wear headphones or ear buds while snowmobiling.
  • Wear a snowmobile helmet that meets safety standards DOT FMVSS 218 or Snell M-2010 or ECE 22.05.
  • Learn the snowmobile traffic laws and regulations for the area.
  • Be sensible about stopping at roads or railroad tracks.
  • Signal your turns to other drivers.
  • Avoid tailgating.
  • Control speed according to conditions.
  • Check to see if your snowmobile has been recalled.

Who Will Pay If You're Injured?

If you own a snowmobile, we highly recommend purchasing liability insurance at a minimum. This will go towards the costs of anyone injured and any property damaged if you were at fault in an accident. If you were a passenger or bystander injured by a careless or drunk rider, you'll need to know if he had liability coverage.

In general, your health insurance plan will cover any injuries you sustain either as a driver or a passenger of an uninsured driver. You may also purchase additional medical payment coverage from your insurance company, which will protect you from out-of-pocket medical costs resulting from a crash.

If you don’t know where to turn following a serious snowmobile accident in the Kansas City area, call our car, truck, and motorcycle accident attorneys for guidance. We'll investigate options for recovering a settlement to help you recover from your injuries.


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