Dr. Amy Movius
Tuesday, January 5, 2010
Wintertime in Maine means playing in the snow, and after our very respectable storm this holiday, many Mainers and visitors did just that. Snowmobiling is a popular way to enjoy the snow in our state, though it is not an activity to be engaged in lightly as recent tragedies remind us.
Snowmobiles are large, heavy, powerful machines. 35% of accidents involving snowmobiles that result in injury or death occur in people less than 25 yrs of age: 25% in 15-24 year-olds and 10% in children less than 15yrs. Males outnumber females three to one and head injuries are the leading cause of injury or death, usually from hitting a fixed object such as a tree. Children less than 16yrs are also frequently injured from falling off snowmobiles or having them roll over onto them. Children less than 8 yrs of age who are injured or killed are usually passengers or being towed behind snowmobiles. In persons over 16yrs, drowning from falling through ice becomes a prominent cause of death as well. Factors contributing to accidents include operator error, speeding, use on inappropriate terrain, snowmobiling at night, and alcohol use. Other risks to be considered when snowmobiling include frostbite, hypothermia, hearing loss, and white finger syndrome.
If you choose snowmobiling as an activity for you and your family, please do so responsibly, and with the consideration of the following guidelines.
- Don’t let anyone less than 16yrs operate a snowmobile. Though this is not a legal requirement, the American Academy of Pediatrics urges you to think of operating a snowmobile as you would driving a car, requiring the same degree of strength, skill and maturity.1 Completion of an instruction and safety course is desirable.
- Children less than 6 years should not ride as passengers on snowmobiles because of inadequate strength and stamina.
- A “graduate license” approach is recommended for new operators. Specifically new operator use should initially be limited to daylight hours and on groomed trails. Use of a speed limiting governor to limit maximum speed possible is also recommended for new operators.2
- Never use alcohol or drugs before/during snowmobiling.
- Protective clothing should be used including goggles, waterproof snowmobiling suit, gloves, rubber-bottomed boots and an approved helmet.3
- Carry emergency supplies including a first aid kit, survival kit that includes flares, and a cellular phone.
- Don’t snowmobile alone.
- Avoid ice is there is any uncertainty about its condition.
- Carry a minimum of 1 passenger.
- Use headlights and taillights at all times.
- Never tow or pull someone behind a snowmobile (ex = in saucer, tube, sled, skis) for amusement.
- Snowmobiling Hazards. American Academy of Pediatrics, Committee on Injury and Poison Prevention. Pediatrics Vol. 106 No. 5 November 2000. Statement of Reaffirmation 2007
- Maine Snowmobile Laws 2008-09
- Maine state law allows children 10yrs and older to operate snowmobiles without adult supervision and children 14yrs and older to cross public ways on snowmobiles.
- The effect of graduated licensing for teenage snowmobilers has not been determined. However, graduated licensing for teenage drivers has reduced the number of motor vehicle-related deaths in teenagers.
- Maine law currently requires persons under 18yrs to wear protective headgear on snowmobiles being used on public trails funded by the Department of Conservation, Bureau of Public Lands. This applies to both operators and passengers.