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Conservation official stresses snowmobile safety

Published: Monday, March 4, 2013 5:30 a.m. CST

Recent heavy snowfalls throughout the region have given snowmobilers the opportunity to ride more often. But with more active riders also comes the risk of more accidents.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources has reported several snowmobiling accidents so far this year, two of which occurred in DeKalb County.

A 33-year-old DeKalb woman was injured in a snowmobiling accident in Shabbona Lake State Park last week, when she rolled over into a ditch, sustaining arm injuries, said acting Region One Commander Robert Frazier of the Illinois Conservation Police.

Richard A. Sims, 32, of Sycamore was riding Feb. 9 when he went down an embankment and was thrown off the snowmobile, injuring himself. The Illinois Conservation Police later charged him with operation under the influence (OUI) and operation without a driver’s license or safety card.

Frazier said the police have written three or four OUIs, which have all been the result of a snowmobiling accident. He said snowmobiling isn’t really a danger, unless people make it one.

“It’s a safe, recreational sport,” he said. “But when you start mixing alcohol with it, it changes the dynamic of things.”

To ensure snowmobiling safety, Frazier said riders are required to make sure the snowmobile’s brake system works, it has reflective material on its sides, and the mufflers, headlights and taillights work well. Riding with at least one other person and notifying someone of your whereabouts and your expected return time also are good ideas, he said. Riders also are required by law to report any personal injury or property damage accidents when they occur.

Nick Piazza, a member of the Kishwaukee Super Sledders snowmobiling club in DeKalb County, said safety is a top priority for the club when riding.

“The number one rule is you don’t ride alone, just because snowmobiling is always an adventure,” he said.

The Super Sledders always ride in groups from anywhere between two or six members, said Piazza. He also said basic snowmobile maintenance, just like with cars, keeps them safe on the trails.

“That’s the number one thing, safety,” he said. “If you’re not safe, you’re not going to be able to enjoy the sport for years to come.”

With more snow possible this week, there are bound to be more snowmobilers taking to the trails. Therefore, it’s important for riders to know the laws and ride with caution, Frazier said.

“We want them to obey the laws and enjoy,” he said.

Safety tips

• Don’t ride alone

• Don’t drink and ride

• Ride with a cellphone

• Obey posted speed limits

• Ensure headlights and taillights work

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