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DNR Warden: 14 snowmobiler deaths in season is 14 too many

There have been 14 fatalities among snowmobilers statewide this winter – a total Wisconsin’s snowmobile safety administrator says is 14 too many.

“We’d like to work together, concentrate on being as safe as possible while enjoying what’s left of our snowmobile season,” Conservation Warden and Snowmobile Safety Administrator Gary Eddy says. “Speed, alcohol and night-time operation are the three most common factors with our fatal accidents.”

Eleven of the 14 fatalities are alcohol-involved, Eddy says.

There were 10 snowmobile fatalities for all of the 2011-12 season, which was nearly non-existent in a large part of the state area due to a lack of snow, Eddy says. Some parts of Wisconsin are getting more snow today as storms move into the Midwest for the weekend and the coming week.

The latest two deaths occurred in the last two days. A double-fatality (operator and passenger) occurred sometime overnight into early morning on Thursday, Feb. 21, in Ashland County when two snowmobilers failed to arrive at Madeline Island after leaving Bayfield. The bodies were recovered from the South Channel of Lake Superior.

Eddy says as the winter winds down and spring gets closer, the ice conditions also start changing — adding another risk to snowmobilers.

“Ice conditions will begin to deteriorate rapidly,” Eddy says. “Snowmobilers will need to exercise a high degree of caution if operating on late-season ice. The best choice is to stay off the ice altogether.”

In addition to avoiding late-season ice, Eddy encourages all snowmobilers to:

• Ride with a safety mindset.

• Slow down.

• Ride under control.

• Practice “Zero Alcohol.” Eddy says that means refraining from drinking any alcohol until you’re home and done riding for the day.

• Take a safety course. Snowmobile safety certification is required of all operators at least age 12 and born on or after January 1, 1985.

Wisconsin is big for snowmobiling where 25,000 miles of trails are groomed for fun statewide. On average, Wisconsin registers 220,000 snowmobiles and sells more than 20,000 non-resident trail passes.

“Snowmobiling is a great winter activity and we want people to ride safe so that they can come home to their families and ride again,” Eddy says.

To learn more about safe snowmobiling, visit: