Since the winter of 2010-2011, only about one out of every five snowmobile deaths in Minnesota happened before New Year’s Day. In other words, about 80% of snowmobile fatalities wait until after the holiday season. Year after year, and across neighboring states, the pattern holds.
Now is the right time for Minnesotans to review snowmobile safety. And among the most consistent risk factors in reports on fatal snowmobile accidents is the high blood alcohol concentration (BAC) among those killed.
Thinking before drinking
If you are one of the nearly quarter-million registered snowmobile owners in the state, you can stay safe and stay sober when plowing through powder in the great outdoors.
Minnesota is known for being tough on drunk driving, including intoxicated snowmobilers. Operating a snowmobile under the influence of alcohol, controlled substances, street or even some prescription drugs is illegal and can carry similarly stiff penalties as drunk automobile driving.
Keeping your driver’s license
According to Minnesota law, you are snowmobiling while intoxicated if your BAC is 0.08% or higher. You may face steep fines, jail time, loss of your snowmobile license as well your driver’s license, ATV and/or boat license.
If you already have a DWI on your record, are snowmobiling with a child passenger, or your BAC is more than twice the legal limit, penalties can increase drastically. If you refuse DWI testing, you may have to do without a driver’s license and a snowmobile/ATV license for a long time.
Safety first and last
Responsible snowmobilers know where and how you can legally ride. Though driving under the influence is never advisable, snowmobile while drunk can be particularly life-threatening due to rough or unknown terrain, weak ice, fast-changing weather conditions and encounters with wildlife.
The Minnesota DNR strongly advises keeping a personal “Zero Alcohol” policy to protect yourself and others every time you ride a snowmobile.