Snowmobiling is part of our community’s culture. Even if you don’t hit the trails very often, it’s a near certainty you know someone who does. But as enjoyable as a snowmobile outing can be, it can be risky. A recent increase in snowmobile crash deaths even prompted the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources (DNR) to send out a safety reminder.

In addition to three rider deaths this winter, there have been many “close calls,” the agency said, including an instance where a snowmobiler hit a person that had been out walking on the ice. While some snowmobile crashes may be honest accidents, in other cases, negligent behavior could be to blame.

Causes of snowmobile crashes

There are two main factors the DNR sees in snowmobile crashes. You probably won’t be surprised by the list.

The first is alcohol. Drinking plays a role in about six out of every 10 fatal snowmobile crashes, according to the DNR. The second is speeding. Going too fast can result in a snowmobile operator losing control or running into something.

Both of those factors are about operator behavior. There is another possible cause that is out of a rider’s control: defects.

In 2019, the Consumer Product Safety Commission issued snowmobile recalls due to fuel leak and fire hazard risks. Previous years have also seen reports of components that are prone to breakage or failure. Product liability is a real danger, and any of these issues could result in a rider or bystander suffering serious harm.

Hundreds of snowmobile injuries in Minnesota

A snowmobile crash doesn’t just put the operator at risk. Passengers can also pay the price. So can anyone that happens to be nearby at the time. Over the past nine winters, the DNR has recorded 822 injuries as a result of snowmobile crashes. That number is a clear indicator that crashes not only happen regularly, but can result in pretty serious consequences.

So if you plan to head outside and enjoy the Minnesota winter, just approach with a little bit of caution. It’s better to be safe than sorry.