Maine is widely regarded as the snowmobile destination of the Northeast with both residents and visitors flocking to its 14,000 miles of maintained trails every year, meaning there is a greater risk of experiencing snowmobile accidents. According to the Maine Snowmobile Association, there are over 85,000 machines registered in the state. Some enthusiasts only indulge on weekends while others travel for days on the 4,000-mile Interconnected Trails System, which takes them from one end of Maine to the other.
Although snowmobiling can be an exhilarating winter pastime, the combination of frigid temperatures, heavy machines, and high speeds also make it potentially dangerous. For example:
- Last winter, there were nine fatalities, some of them attributable to driving at high speeds and operating a snowmobile while impaired
- In mid-January 2018, at least nine people riding across lakes and ponds broke through the thin ice, all of them within a 24-hour period.
Maine has a snowmobile registration system in effect: all riders must register their sleds before they can operate those in the state. They must also follow Maine’s snowmobile laws, which govern where they may ride as well as indicate safety protocols such as the use of protective headgear and presence of functioning headlights.
Snowmobile Accidents: How to Avoid Them
These regulations are in place because snowmobile accidents can result in serious injury. In some cases, driver carelessness or error is to blame. Other times, severe weather conditions or even a defective machine can cause riders to lose control of their machines. If you plan to ride the Maine trails this season, consider the recommendations below to keep yourself and your passengers safe.
- Don’t ride alone. If your snowmobile breaks down or you get into an accident, you’ll have someone who can help you get to safety. If you don’t have anyone to ride with, let someone know where you intend to ride and when you anticipate getting back. This person can be a friend or resort employee.
- Dress appropriately and wear a helmet. Although protective headgear is only legally required for riders under 18, a helmet could save your life if you are thrown from your sled and can protect your face from low-hanging tree branches and ice pellets.
- Do not drink and ride. Maine has a strict Operating Under the Influence (OUI) law, and anyone convicted of this offense may face steep fines and even jail.
- Unless you are an experienced rider with in-depth knowledge of the area, stay on the marked trails.
- Don’t cross frozen bodies of water unless you are positive that the ice is thick enough to support your machine’s weight. If in doubt, use a bridge to cross or take an alternate route, and never cross the ice if the weather has been warmer recently.
- Wear jackets or coats with built-in floatation if you intend to ride across lakes and ponds. It is also a good idea to carry ice picks, which can be used to drag yourself out of the water if you fall through.
- When approaching a curve, hill, or other situation where your view could be obstructed, stay to the right.
- Ride at a speed that is reasonable for the existing conditions, keeping an eye out for other sledders and wild animals.
- Use hand signals to inform other riders of your actions. The Maine Snowmobile Association has a printout of standardized hand signals that you may request.
When you head out with these safety guidelines in mind, you increase your chances of having a thrilling and enjoyable snowmobile adventure. Have fun, and stay safe!
What’s the Bottom Line?
If you are injured on one of Maine’s many trails in a snowmobile accident and the accident was caused by the recklessness or negligence of another party, contact Fales & Fales, P.A. We understand that winter sports like snowmobiling and skiing carry a certain element of risk, but if you are seriously hurt because another rider drove while intoxicated or your defective sled broke down suddenly, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering, and other damages. To schedule a confidential consultation and case review, call 1-888-526-9408 today.