Late-Season Snowmobile Safety
Snowmobiling is a popular recreational activity and is great fun during the Canadian winter, but it’s not without risks; especially in the late winter months — February and March.
Snowmobilers have a much higher risk of death when travelling across ‘frozen’ lakes or ponds during the late-season thaw; with most deaths occuring due to the vehicle breaking through thin ice and the driver drowning.
Take proper safety precautions
- Let someone who is not going on the excursion know where you are going and when you’ll be back.
- Don’t go alone, make sure you ride with at least one other snowmobiler so that rescue is a possibility.
- Wear safety equipment including a helmet with a visor, a personal flotation device and warm clothing to protect you from the elements.
- Have an understanding of the terrain. Survey the area and make note of potentially dangerous spots.
- Pack injury and rescue equipment: rope, first aid kit, ice picks, flashlight, lighter, tool kits and a survival blanket are all essential.
- Do not consume alcohol before or while operating a snowmobile.
- Make sure you’ve had enough sleep and that you are not tired.
- If a minor is operating a snowmobile, make sure that they are always supervised (children aged 12 and up can legally operate a snowmobile with a motorized snow vehicle operator’s licence).
Mind your surroundings
- Check with local authorities to verify the condition of the lakes and ponds.
- Avoid grey ice, it’s usually thin.
- Obey posted signs that indicate what activates are appropriate.
- Avoid areas where there are currents and tides as this can cause the ice to be thin and weak.
- Conditions of ice can change quickly, ice that was safe one day may not be safe the next.
Insurance for snowmobiles is mandatory in Ontario, except in certain situations. It is not required while the snowmobile is being driven on the private property of the snowmobile’s owner.
In all other cases, the law requires that you have the following minimum coverages:
- Third Party Liability Coverage of at least $200,000 to protect you if another person is killed or injured, or if their property is damaged. If you’re sued, this coverage pays claims up to the limit of your coverage, and the cost of settling the claims.
- Statutory Accident Benefits Coverage to provide supplementary medical, rehabilitation, attendant care, caregiver, non-earner, income replacement, and death benefits if you are killed or injured in an accident, regardless of who caused it.
- Direct Compensation – Property Damage (DCPD) Coverage to pay for damage to your vehicle and its contents, if another driver is at fault for an accident that occurs in Ontario and that driver is insured by an insurance company licensed in the province.
- Uninsured Automobile Coverage to provide financial compensation for you and your family if you’re injured or killed by an unidentified driver or by an uninsured motorist. It also covers damage to your vehicle caused by an identified uninsured driver, up to $25,000.
As winter begins to thaw into spring, take extra precaution on frozen lakes and ponds. Be smart, safe and have fun!