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Snowmobile crash data laws reviewed

December 18, 2010
Adirondack Daily Enterprise

During the 2009-10 snowmobiling season New York State had 14 deaths and 237 people injured from snowmobiling. Franklin County had one fatality and eight people injured. Unsafe speed was listed by far as the number one cause of snowmobile crashes. This is not necessarily speeding but operators who were riding too fast for weather and/or trail conditions. The statistics show that the most dangerous time was between noon and 6 p.m. and, not surprisingly, most of the crashes occurred on weekends.

The Franklin County Traffic Safety Board in conjunction with police enforcement agencies throughout the county recently discussed how best to address the snowmobiling violations that occur within the county. Although plans are not yet finalized, you can plan on several enforcement techniques to be employed this winter season.

In preparation for the upcoming snowmobiling season, following is a review of NYS laws governing the operation of snowmobiles.

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 with NYS unless operated solely on the owner's property, and the registration must be properly 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 on snowmobiling, go to

For more articles on traffic safety, go to Please enjoy the sport - legally and safely.

Dave Werner can be reached at



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