January 19, 2013

In Maine, speed thrills

But sledding on the edge still has limits

By Deirdre Fleming dfleming@pressherald.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 2)

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Snowmobilers ride along ITS 84 in Oquossoc on Jan. 12.

Photos by Gregory Rec/Staff Photographer

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Ryan Harvey of Sanford drives his snowmobile about 45 mph, while staff photographer Gregory Rec rides on the back, holding his camera out to the side with one hand and holding onto Harvey with the other hand. Harvey said that the culture of snowmobiling in Maine, with dozens of clubs teaching safe riding habits, makes riders feel safe.

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Wisconsin, which has around 225,000 registered riders, also had four snowmobiling fatalities during the first month of winter.

Snowmobile deaths in Wisconsin increased from 1976 to 2006 with a high of 39, but after a night speed limit was enacted in 2006, the number steadily decreased to an average of about 10.

Michigan, which averages around 215,000 registered riders annually, averages more than 20 snowmobile fatalities per year. There is no speed limit on Michigan trails, but officers say they ticket fast riders.

"The (speed) law calls for 'not greater than is reasonable on the existing conditions.' What it comes down to is someone who is reckless and driving too fast for the conditions," said Conservation Officer Dean Molnar with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

Minnesota, which averages 250,000 registered riders annually, has about 12 snowmobile fatalities each winter, and has had as many as 23, said Hammer of the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources.

"If we lose an inexperienced operator, it's typically at night," Hammer said.

Nationally, snowmobile use has been increasing, according to the International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association.

Registrations dropped to 1.4 million last year during a poor snow year, but have averaged about 1.7 million over the past decade, said Ed Klim, the association's director.

In Maine, as elsewhere in the country, officials say there always will be riders who break the law or act recklessly.

"As with cars or anything else, a certain small percentage are going to push the envelope in some way, with speed, or texting while driving or drinking while driving. It's the same thing," said Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobile Association.

Staff Writer Deirdre Fleming can be contacted at 791-6452 or at:

dfleming@pressherald.com

Twitter: Flemingpph

 

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Additional Photos

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Snowmobilers head across a cove on Rangeley Lake in Rangeley on Jan. 12.

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Good trail conditions and freedom found on Maine’s trails are “the main reason I come here," says Jim Delaney of Boxford, Mass.

 


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