Healthy Living: Snowmobile Safety 

By- Dr. Amy MoviusFor many, snowmobiling is an important part of wintertime in Maine. The deaths and injuries from snowmobiles this past weekend are a sober reminder that care and planning is essential and may be lifesaving for people using these large and powerful machines. Some snowmobiling statistics follow: 1. Victims of snowmobiling injuries or deaths are often young: a. 35% are less than 25 yrs. of age. i. 25% are 15-24 year-olds, ii. 10% in children less than 15yrs. 2. Males outnumber females three to one 3. Head injuries are the leading cause of injury or death, usually from hitting a fixed object such as a tree. 4. Children less than 16yrs are frequently injured from falling off snowmobiles or having them roll over onto them. Children less than 8 yrs of age who are injured or killed are usually passengers or being towed behind snowmobiles. 5. For persons over 16yrs, drowning from falling through ice is a major factor.6. Operator error, speeding, use on inappropriate terrain, snowmobiling at night, and alcohol use are all contributing to snowmobile injuries and deaths 7. Non-accident risks include frostbite, hypothermia, hearing loss, and white finger syndrome.If you want to snowmobile, please do so responsibly. Consideration of the following guidelines can keep you and your family safe, while having fun. 1. Please don’t let anyone less than 16yrs old drive a snowmobile! Though this is not a law, the American Academy of Pediatrics urges you to think of operating a snowmobile as you would driving a car. It requires not only strength and skill, but maturity as well.1 Completion of an instruction and safety course is best. 2. Children less than 6 years should not ride as passengers on snowmobiles because of inadequate strength and stamina.3. A “graduated license” approach is recommended for new operators. This means new operators are limited to snowmobile use during daylight hours and on groomed trails only. Use of a speed limiting governor (limits maximum speed) is also recommended for new operators.24. NEVER use alcohol or drugs before/during snowmobiling.5. Protective clothing is needed. This includes goggles, a waterproof snowmobiling suit, gloves, rubber-bottomed boots and an approved helmet.36. Carry emergency supplies including a first aid kit, a survival kit (that includes flares), and a cellular phone.7. Don’t snowmobile alone.8. Avoid ice is there is any uncertainty about its condition. Conditions can be checked at 9. Carry a maximum of 1 passenger.10. Use headlights and taillights at all times. 11. Never tow or pull someone behind a snowmobile (ex = in saucer, tube, sled, skis) for amusement.References1. Snowmobiling Hazards. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention. Pediatrics Vol. 106 No. 5 November 2000. Statement of Reaffirmation 2010. www.aap.org2. Maine Snowmobile Laws 2008-09 3. (for current conditions)Footnotes1. Maine state law allows children 10yrs and older to operate snowmobiles without adult supervision and children 14yrs and older to cross public ways on snowmobiles.2. The effect of graduated licensing for teenage snowmobilers has not been determined. However, graduated licensing for teenage drivers has reduced the number of motor vehicle-related deaths in this age group.3. Maine law currently requires persons less than 18yrs to wear protective headgear on snowmobiles being used on public trails funded by the Department of Conservation, Bureau of Public Lands. This applies to both operators and passengers.