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Snowmobile Accidents in Michigan

December 6, 2021

Michigan averages 64 inches of snow per year. In contrast, the US average is just 28 inches of snow per year. In Michigan, lots of snow means lots of outdoor fun.

You may call it a “snow machine,” “sled,” “skimobile,” or Skidoo. But whatever you call it, snowmobiling is a great way to enjoy the outdoors. And with the UP (Upper Peninsula) and northern Michigan forecast already receiving lots of snow, many of us will be lacing our Sorel boots, and taking our sleds for a ride.

However, safety is key when operating a snowmobile. Failing to use caution and safe operating procedures can result in serious accidents.

Michigan Snowmobile Fatalities Double Since 2016

When operated safely, snowmobiles can be a great way to experience our Michigan winters. However, like other motor vehicles, a sled can also be deadly if not operated correctly. The Michigan Department of Natural Resources reports that since 2016, the number of collisions and fatalities involving snowmobiles has nearly doubled in the state. The top cause of serious snowmobile rider injury and death in Michigan is excessive speed. In addition, operating a snowmobile while under the influence of drugs or alcohol are also major contributing factors for speed-related snowmobile accidents and fatalities.

What are the Top Snowmobile Risk Factors?

There are a number of factors that can contribute to snowmobile accidents. They include operator negligence, poorly maintained trails, and snowmobile defects.

Some snowmobiles can attain speeds of up to 150 miles per hour, and again, excessive speed is one of the leading causes of death in snowmobile accidents. Operating a snowmobile at such speed makes it difficult to control the machine around curves, and many snowmobilers are killed when they hit trees, telephone poles, street signs, and other objects—even innocent bystanders. Survivors of serious snowmobile accidents often suffer spinal cord and brain injuries.

Riding at night is also a primary cause of snowmobile deaths in Michigan, as is intoxication.

Finally, it’s important to understand that the snowmobile operator isn’t always at fault. Property owners have a duty to maintain their trails and keep them safe for snowmobiles. A lot of snowmobile accidents occur because snowmobiles hit chain-link fences, wires, or cables—especially in rural areas.

How Do I Prepare for a Safe Snowmobile Experience in Michigan?

Before you lace and bundle up for a Michigan snowmobile ride, take some time to review these safety tips. You can decrease the odds of dangerous and deadly accidents by taking these simple precautions:

  • Keep your snowmobile well-maintained;
  • Check the local weather conditions before you set out;
  • Let someone know where you are going, so they’ll know where to look if you don’t return on time;
  • Never ride alone.
  • Don’t ride your snowmobile on highways or main roads.
  • Know how to operate your snowmobile;
  • Keep your headlights and taillights on at all times.
  • Wear insulated boots and protective winter clothing, including a wool cap, gloves, and eye protection; You also must wear a helmet—its Michigan;
  • Operate at safe and appropriate speeds for the trail and weather conditions.
  • Stay on the designated trails and follow trail signage for signals to reduce your speed;
  • Watch out for fences, wires, and low-hanging tree limbs;
  • When approaching a trail intersection, come to a complete stop, raise yourself off the seat of your machine, and look for traffic;
  • If possible, avoid crossing frozen bodies of water or snow-covered lakes;
  • Look for depressions and drifts in the snow.
  • Don’t get distracted—don’t use your phone and focus on operating your snowmobile; and
  • Don’t drink or do drugs.

Take a Snowmobile Safety Class

In Michigan, the Department of Natural Resources says that all snowmobilers ages 12 to 16 must take a Michigan-approved snowmobile safety course and obtain a snowmobile safety certificate. The DNR recommends snowmobile safety education training and online safety courses for all snowmobile operators in the state. The Michigan Snowmobile Ed Course fee is just $29.50.

Contact us

If you or a family member has been seriously injured in a snowmobile accident in Michigan, contact the Grand Rapids injury lawyers at Buchanan Firm. We will investigate the accident to determine if there was negligence on behalf of an individual. Our firm proudly serves people all across Michigan, including major cities like Grand Rapids, Muskegon, Detroit, Lansing, Holland, Marquette, and Jackson, and rural towns such as Lowell, Rockford, Cedar Springs, and the Upper Peninsula. We will meet you after-hours, at home or in the hospital, to accommodate you.

Contact us today!