Snowmobiling Safety

TR Staff
Staff Writer

By Donovan Williams
With the blizzards of North Dakota likely to stay for a while, people may need a refresher for the safety precautions for snowmobiling. Some may drive recklessly, risking their lives and possibly the lives of others. Some might not even be qualified to drive these winter vehicles. The rules of the road can be obeyed and qualification is possible through North Dakota's Parks and Recreation Department, whose motto is Ride Safe and Ride Smart.
North Dakota's Park and Recreation requires that all riders have attended a certification class (either in the area or online), to be at least 10 years of age (unless under the supervision of a certified parent or guardian) and to have successfully passed the safety certification test.
As far as where to ride, North Dakota has 13 state snowmobile trails, stretching to 2,800 miles total, which are open to snowmobilers from December 1st through April 1st (if there is at least a minimum of four inches of packed snow by then).
Registration is handled by the North Dakota Department of Transportation and can be done at any licensing office statewide. It is required that all snowmobiles must be registered if on public property. The registration fee is $50 for a 2 year period. It is categorized as a $5 registration fee and a $45 tax fee, which must be paid in odd numbered years. These fees are not required if the snowmobiles are owned and used by another state, are registered in a foreign country, from another state and haven't been in North Dakota for more than 30 days, used exclusively on private lands, or if it is a collector snowmobile. The Department of Transportation may issue a special permit for operating in events such as parades, races, or group outings. Not having a snowmobile properly registered will make the owner responsible for answering to the law.
Valley City Police Department's Lieutenant Dana Rustebakke had some input to share on snowmobile safety.
"To operate a snowmobile on a roadway, you have to have a driver's license," Rustebakke said. "They're not supposed to be in the ditches, crossing the roadway. We tell everyone to take the most direct route in and out of town. The problem we have in town is that people will drive them in a reckless manner. Every winter we get complaints as soon as snow hits the ground."
Rustebakke made it clear that the same consequences apply with driving a motor vehicle, that people can get a DUI on a snowmobile.
"The main thing to remind snowmobilers is to obey the rules of the road," Rustebakke said. "Snowmobilers are not much different than motorcyclists: people aren't looking for them so I'd hate to see one of them get in a car accident."
Riding attire is especially important for safety. People should wear a helmet at all times, use eye protection, and wear more than a few layers of clothing on each ride. Reflective clothing should always be worn at night, people must use the proper caution if when driving over ice, boots and gloves should be made of water resistant materials. It is important to know the conditions and the terrain before riding. It is not recommended to ride in hazardous conditions as help may not be able to get to the riders in time.
Snowmobile Safety Certification Courses begin each year in October and are held all winter. The classroom certification fee is $20 and is $30 for online classes. To pre-register people can call 328-5348 or email Winter may be far from over in North Dakota but many can rest easy knowing that the people around them are taking the proper precautions in order to keep everyone on the roads and trails safe.