Notes from the Chief – 1-9-2013

by Chief Pete Gehring

We have not been blessed with a lot of snow over the past several years, so seeing some on the ground gets a lot of people excited about the snowmobile season ahead. And this is a great sport for both individuals or families. But like in all sports, there are rules and regulations that need to be followed. This may be a good time to talk about them before a couple individuals ruin the sport for the majority.

The State of Wisconsin and the Department of Natural Resources (DNR) have many laws and regulations for snowmobiling. The Village of Colfax also has a number of ordinances that pertain to the sport when within the Village limits. Many of these rules are similar to traffic regulations and most of them are no more than common sense issues. In this article I will try to highlight those specific to our area.

The most basic is Village Ordinance 10-3-8 which states that there are designated snowmobile trails and routes within the Village. These are signed and should be easy to follow. If there is no sign, chances are you should not be driving your sled there. No person should operate a snowmobile on private property without permission. Just because there is not a designated trail to where you want to go, does not give you permission to travel the shortest route. If there is no signed route, you need to find another way. You are not allowed to operate in village parks or near village waterways. You cannot operate on sidewalks or on the wrong side of a designated street. You may drive on streets from your home, only on the shortest route to a designated trail. The streets are not open for recreational riding around town.

Section 10-3-5 states that the speed limit for a snowmobile operated within the Village limits is fifteen (15) miles per hour at all times and in all locations. This is the posted limit whether there is a sign or not. You must also obey any other regulatory signs you may encounter. Your snowmobile must be registered with the State and the registration sticker must be properly displayed. If you are in an accident, you are responsible for reporting the accident the same as with a motor vehicle. You are responsible to render aid if you come upon someone else who has had an accident. Similar to a motor vehicle, the snowmobile code has laws regarding operating while under the influence to alcohol or drugs.

Ordinance 10-3-6 states that no person under the age of twelve (12) may operate a snowmobile. No person over the age of twelve (12) but under the age of sixteen (16) may operate a snowmobile unless he/she holds a valid snowmobile safety certificate or is accompanied by a person over eighteen (18) years of age. Fines upon conviction of these violations are from $20.00 to $500.00 for municipal offenses and even higher for state offences.

Use common sense and drive safely within the law. You should limit your speed to your range of vision and driving ability. Stay off private property. Talk to your fellow riders. Don’t let a few spoil it for the rest. You really can have fun and stay within the laws.