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Snowmobiling laws make the sport safer

January 30, 2010

Franklin County has already seen a fatal snowmobiling crash this January in the town of Santa Clara when a snowmobile and a dump truck crashed into each other on the Blue Mountain Road. And, in early January, three of a group of six people were killed in Vermont when their snowmobiles fell through thin ice.

It has been three years since the Franklin County TSB has addressed snowmobiling safety in a "Did You Know" article. So, here are some of the laws that govern snowmobiling in NYS that every snowmobiler should know.

-Speed - never operate a snowmobile at an improper or unreasonable speed given the surrounding circumstances, and never in excess of 55 mph.

It is illegal to operate a snowmobile in a careless, reckless or negligent manner.

-Intoxication/drugs - DWI & DWAI are the same snowmobiling as for operating a motor vehicle.

-Lights - Between sunset and sunrise, or when lights are required for safety, you must have at least one lighted headlight and tail light.

It's illegal to operate on private property without the owner's permission.

If towing a sleigh, sled or toboggan it must be attached by a rigid towbar.

It's illegal to operate on a public road or highway unless that road or highway has been designated for use by the governing authorities. When riding on designated roads, you must ride single file on the right side of the road with the direction of traffic. It is also permissible to cross a highway (except limited access highways) at a 90-degree angle.

On highways other than limited or controlled access highways, it is permissible to operate outside of the snowbanks.

Liability insurance is required if operating on property not owned by the operator or on designated roads or shoulders, and proof of such insurance must be carried on the operator's person.

If a child is under the age of 14, he/she cannot operate a snowmobile except on his/her parent's or guardian's property. However, if the operator is between 10 and 14 years old and holds a valid snowmobile safety certificate, he/she may operate on property of others (with permission) if accompanied (within 500 feet) by a person over 18 years of age. A child between 14 and 18 that holds a valid safety certificate may operate a snowmobile in the same manner as a person over 18.

Snowmobiles must be registered unless operated solely on the owner's property, and the registration must be affixed to the machine's cowling.

Operation of a snowmobile requires an approved protective helmet for drivers AND passengers unless on your own property.

These are just some of the many laws applicable to snowmobiling. For more information, go to Please enjoy the sport, legally and safely.


Dave Werner can be reached at



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