Snowmobile crashed into tree

Impaired Operation

It is important that riders consider potential dangers like impaired operation, speed and careless operation, roads and railroads, ice, and avalanches — all which can be present when snowmobiling. This section provides tips on how to avoid these dangers.

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Impaired Operation

Poster with photo of snowmobiler and text 'Have Fun On Your Run. Don't Drink Till Your Done'
Impaired operation from alcohol consumption or drug use is a major cause of snowmobiling crashes. Alcohol and prescription, over-the-counter, or illegal drugs all increase risks to an unacceptable level whenever operating any motor vehicle. When combined with other factors such as excessive speed, careless operation, night riding or riding in unfamiliar terrain, use while snowmobiling can become especially deadly.

Do Not Drink When Snowmobiling
Safe snowmobiling requires riders to maintain peak vigilance and caution at all times. Individual snowmobilers must exercise sound personal judgment and make smart choices in order to be able to respond to continuously changing surroundings when snowmobiling. Consequently, any physical or mental impairment poses a serious threat to operators and other riders.

Alcohol and drugs negatively affect a driver's vision, balance, coordination, and reaction time. Don't drink and ride or let others in your group drink and ride. It simply isn't worth risking your life or the lives of others. Wait until you're done riding for the day and then, if you choose to consume alcohol, do it responsibly and in a setting where you won't be driving.

Alcohol Affects Vision
Have Fun on Your Run poster

Drivers who operate a motor vehicle while impaired tend to focus only on what's directly in front of them. This is similar to having "tunnel vision" and the driver may not pay attention to anything else around them while only looking just a few feet directly in front of their snowmobile. This can be deadly since it prevents drivers from recognizing dangers outside their 'tunnel.'

Alcohol Affects Balance and Coordination
Alcohol consumption negatively affects an individual's sense of balance and coordination. This reduced coordination decreases your ability to drive a snowmobile in a safe manner, meaning you can easily become a hazard to yourself and to others on the trail. Safe operation of a snowmobile requires that you be able to coordinate operation of the snowmobile's throttle and brake with your hands, as well as be able to shift your weight for steering. This becomes difficult once alcohol or drug related impairment starts to build in your body's system.

Alcohol Affects Reaction Time
Reaction time refers to the amount of time a driver needs to first recognize and then react to a hazard or danger. Often times, there are only a few seconds that pass before you hit the hazard. Since alcohol or drug use always slows your reaction time, operating a snowmobile while impaired could lead to severe or deadly injuries.

There are many situations when you may need to react quickly while snowmobiling. This includes when slowing down behind another snowmobile, approaching a road crossing, making a turn, or negotiating a curve in the trail. You may also need to react quickly when encountering an on-coming snowmobile, a fallen tree, or a depression in the snow. In all cases, a slower reaction time due to impairment could prove to be fatal.

Zero Alcohol is the Best Choice When Riding
Do not drink when snowmobiling

Snowmobiling occurs in a natural environment subject to widely varying and often unpredictable conditions due to severe winter weather. Since alcohol use lowers a person's body temperature along with impairing vision, coordination, and reaction time, its use in a severe winter setting is a deadly combination. Consequently, no amount of alcohol consumption should be considered safe or acceptable when operating a snowmobile. Impairment starts with the first drink, so avoiding it totally is the only safe choice when riding.

Zero Alcohol means absolutely no consumption of alcohol by any participant prior to going snowmobiling or during any ride. Make the best personal safe riding choice by always practicing Zero Alcohol while also encouraging all riding companions to do the same. It will save lives, reduce injuries, and help ensure you'll be able to experience the wonders of snowmobiling for yet another day.