Officers Urge Safety for Snowmobilers - News and Weather For The Quad Cities -

Officers Urge Safety for Snowmobilers

Updated: Jan 9, 2014 10:33 PM
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Original 1-09-14:

Our recent weather has made for a great start to the snowmobiling season, but it's also been a deadly one. Officers have already responded to two fatal accidents in the past week. And they are now stressing safety.

Iowa DNR Officer Jeff Harrison tells us he hits the trails for fun and for work, spending days during the winter out on area trails. "Some of the areas that I get to patrol are areas that are off the beaten path, and virgin snow and beautiful."

But some of what he sees is not. "Unfortunately with snowmobiling," Harrison says, "We're gonna have accidents that take place."He says some of those are unavoidable. But there are ways to ride safer.

While many like to hit the ice and hit top speed, riders must make sure ice is thick enough to support their sleds. "Ice conditions can change whether there's current underneath, whether the wind's hitting it, temperature plays a big role and then the amount of activity," Harrison tells us. He says everyone should carry life-jackets and ice picks, watching out for unexpected obstacles and each other, never riding alone.

It's advice he says applies to trails as well. Even though registration and permit fees help keep them groomed, "There are still some obstacles there because you've got road ditches and you've got culverts, you've got signposts, you've got fencing and stuff like that." Harrison says you have to follow the signs you see. And you'll see officers out patrolling this season, just like on the streets, looking for licenses and registration. They'll also make sure riders are using headlamps and not driving drunk.

Bottom line, Harrison says, go with your gut. "Operate a snowmobile at your comfort level. Be safe." So you'll be able to ride again.

Officers will be out ahead of Sunday's Radar Run to fight Spina Bifida. They'll be checking the ice, making sure it can hold sleds and spectators. At this point, they estimate it's at least a foot thick. That's thicker than the suggested five inches for snowmobiles and four inches for fishers.

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