Snowmobiling is a popular activity in Ontario, whether undertaken as a mode of transportation or as a recreational pastime. In fact, the 2010 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report cited more than 310,000 registered snowmobiles in the province alone.
When considering why it is so commonplace, the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC) cites the nearly 35,000 kilometres of groomed trails in our province and a season that can stretch up to 16 weeks.
As with any vehicle, there are special concerns and considerations with operating a snowmobile.
Below are statistics about snowmobiling that may help to shed light on some of the most important safety factors – including the common reasons for snowmobile accidents.
- Fatal accidents are relatively rare but do happen – The 2010 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report states 27 people died in snowmobile accidents during the 2009/2010 season.
- Injury accidents are more common than snowmobile-related deaths – The same accident report lists 193 people as having suffered injury in snowmobile accidents. These figures include both operators and passengers.
- Those on snowmobiles aren’t the only ones at risk for injury – A negligent or careless snowmobile operator can cause injury to pedestrians, cross-country skiers, hikers, snowshoers and even those in passenger vehicles. The 2010 Ontario Road Safety Annual Report shows four pedestrians were injured as a result of snowmobile collisions in 2010.
- A wide range of hazards lead to snowmobile accidents – Annual road reports analyze the most common causes of snowmobile accidents. The chief causes of accidents in the 2009/2010 season are, in order: surface conditions such as loss of traction due to packed snow or ice (65 percent of accidents); operator error such as traveling too fast for conditions (28 percent); alcohol consumption (19 percent); and unlicensed drivers (four percent).
- Alcohol is a key safety concern – A dispatch from the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) cites alcohol in seven out of 13 snowmobiling deaths in the 2011/2012 season. As a reminder: Operating a snowmobile under the influence of drugs or alcohol carries serious penalties. A driver convicted of operating a snowmobile while drunk may lose other driving privileges and be unable to drive a car or truck.
- Going off-trail can be deadly – The OPP and OFSC urges drivers to steer clear of lakes and rivers and to stick to marked, groomed trails. More than 90 percent of fatal snowmobile accidents take place off the OFSC’s designated trails.
Statistics show that alcohol, poor driving conditions and operator error are among the primary reasons for serious or fatal accidents. Safety officials urge riders and passengers to avoid drinking and driving and to invest in snowmobile safety courses. Staying up-to-date on weather and trail conditions may help lessen the chances of encountering danger.
We offer several other safety- and statistics-related blog entries to help residents in Ontario stay safe. Be sure to check out our blog about 10 drunk driving statistics that will expound further on the dangers of drinking and driving.