January 5, 2013

Maine snowmobile safety advice is no snow job

Sledders' excitement over ample snowfall may be leading to dangerous choices, authorities say.

By BEN McCANNA Morning Sentinel

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There are also six-hour snowmobile education courses offered statewide on topics such as proper operation and safety, laws, emergencies and survival, map and compass use, first aid and land ethics, according to the website of the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife. The safety courses, which offer a certificate after completion, are conducted by regional safety coordinators whose contact information is on the department's website.

The courses are optional -- as they are for boat and ATV use -- though MacDonald recommends all snowmobilers take the courses.

"I know it's difficult for people who have been doing it quite a while to enter into a course," MacDonald said. "But anyone new, youngsters, it offers a good spectrum of safety and riding."

MacDonald would not say whether he thought safety courses should be required, saying that's a department policy position.

Doug Rafferty, spokesman for the Maine Warden Service, said the department is not considering any policy that would require safety courses. Department officials believe that it should be kept voluntary, he said.

"We have no way of knowing who has and hasn't had training on snowmobiles and experience riding them, and we would hate to jump into it at this point, making it a mandatory program. It's just not feasible," Rafferty said. "But we would certainly recommend it to anyone who's just bought one and is new to it, because every year we have a number of snowmobile fatalities and we'd like to see that at zero. So, we'd highly recommend it to anyone getting into snowmobiling from the start."

Morning Sentinel Staff Writer Ben McCanna can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:



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