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New York State reminds snowmobilers to ride safely

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation, New York State Park Police, New York State Police and the Department of Environmental Conservation remind snowmobilers to ride responsibly and exercise caution as they enjoy the state’s abundant snowmobiling opportunities. Park Police, State Police and DEC Forest Rangers and Environmental Conservation Police Officers (ECOs) are increasing snowmobile patrols this weekend to ensure that operators are complying with speed regulations, as well as regulations involving alcohol and drugs.

“Alcohol use and unsafe speed are the leading causes of snowmobile crashes,” State Parks Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said. “While riding a snowmobile, be sure to avoid alcohol, drive within your abilities, within speed limits, and to reduce speeds during inclement or nighttime operation. Following these basic safety recommendations and paying attention to trail conditions will help to ensure you and your friends have a fun and enjoyable day in New York’s great outdoors.”

“We want snowmobile enthusiasts to take advantage of the beautiful trails throughout the state, but we want them to do so safely,” said State Police Superintendent Kevin P. Bruen. “Our snowmobile patrols will be highly visible and will have no tolerance for reckless operation or those who operate a machine while impaired. We urge everyone to make responsible and safe choices before operating a snowmobile or any other vehicle.”

“Each winter, thousands of people visit the hundreds of miles of snowmobiling trails crisscrossing New York State. To enjoy this activity, and protect themselves and others, snowmobilers are advised to ride and drive safely,” DEC Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “Staying on designated trails, wearing a helmet, observing the speed limit, and eliminating alcohol when riding or driving a snowmobile are critical to getting home safely and protecting our resources.”

In New York, a snowmobile driver can be charged with Snowmobiling While Intoxicated (SWI) if he or she operates a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Any snowmobile driver with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher can be charged with an SWI, the snowmobile equivalent of a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offense. A misdemeanor conviction can result in a permanent criminal record, a maximum fine of $1500, up to 90 days in jail, and a 12-month suspension of snowmobiling privileges. Intoxication can be proven through different types of evidence including BAC chemical tests (breath, blood, or urine), law enforcement’s observations, and other factors. An SWI charge is upgraded to a felony when there are two prior convictions.

Also, a snowmobile driver can be charged with Snowmobiling While Ability Impaired (SWAI). The penalty for a SWAI conviction can include a fine up to $350, jail time up to 15 days, and a suspension of snowmobile privileges for six months. A second type of SWAI charge involves driving a snowmobile while under the influence of drugs. Similar to a DWAI-Drugs, the SWAI-Drugs charge is a misdemeanor offense that can be brought against any snowmobiler who operates the vehicle while on drugs. If convicted, an SWAI-Drugs charge can bring harsh penalties, including a fine up to $500, jail time up to 90 days, and a one-year suspension of your snowmobile registration and privileges.

Everyone operating a snowmobile should be familiar with safe riding practices and all applicable laws, rules, and regulations. The best way to learn is by taking a snowmobile safety course. To find a course, go to the website here. A safety certificate is required for youth between ages 10 and 18.

Top safety recommendations include:

  • Check over your snowmobile; make sure it is in good working order and carry emergency supplies.
    Always wear a helmet and make sure you wear the proper snowmobile gear including bibs, jackets, boots, and gloves.
  • Always ride with a buddy or at least one other person.
  • Ride responsibly. Ride within your ability, ride to the right and operate at a safe and prudent speed. Respect landowners, obey posted signs and stay on the marked trail.
  • Frozen Bodies of water are not designated trails; if you plan to ride on ice, proceed with caution and be aware of potential hazards under the snow.
  • Never drink alcohol or use drugs and ride.
  • Governor Kathy Hochul designated March 5-6 and March 12-13 free snowmobile weekends in New York State.
  • Snowmobiling fees will be waived for out-of-state and Canadian snowmobilers during the promotional weekend. Currently, out-of-state and Canadian snowmobilers are required to register their snowmobiles with New York State before hitting the state’s trails. Snowmobile registration costs $100, but is decreased to $45 for those who join a local snowmobile club affiliated with the New York State Snowmobile Association.

Participants in free snowmobiling weekend must operate a snowmobile that is validly registered in their home state/Canadian Province and must carry any applicable insurance as required by their home state/province. For information on snowmobiling, including online registration for out-of-state snowmobilers, during non-promotional times, click here.

The Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP) oversees the development, maintenance and oversight of a statewide snowmobile program, which features more than 10,500 miles of state-designated snowmobile trails. For more information on snowmobiling in New York, visit here.

Categories: New York StateNews