coming back alive
Be careful when driving a snowmobile, it could cost you your life.
Fatal Facts

According to a study released in 2003 by the Canadian Institute for Health Information, 16% of severe sports and recreational injuries in Canada in 2000/2001 involved snowmobiles. That ranks second only to cycling (18%).

Most of those injured on snowmobiles were men in their early 30s. And of the 92 people admitted to hospital with snowmobile injuries, fully one quarter had drunk alcohol or taken drugs before heading out into the snow.

70 per cent of snowmobile driver deaths in Canada are alcohol related.

In the largest ever Canadian study of recreational snowmobile injuries, the authors studied snowmobile injuries in a ten-year period between 1988 and 1997 at a Manitoba trauma centre. The study was published in April 2004 in the Canadian Journal of Surgery. This is what they found:

Demographic Profile:

  • A total of 294 patients suffered 480 injuries. 81 of these patients, or 28%, died.

  • 88% were males.

  • The mean age of the patients was 29 years, with 62% being between 19 and 25.

  • 61% were Aboriginal, compared with 12% of the province’s population. 86% lived in a rural area.

Injury Profile:

  • 84% of those injured were drivers, 10% were passengers, 2% were riding on sleds behind snowmobiles and 4% were pedestrians struck by a snowmobile.

  • 74% of the patients required at least one operation.

  • 88% of the patients had drunk alcohol before their injuries. 70% of the patients had a blood alcohol level greater than 0.08. The authors note this is the highest rate of alcohol use reported in the literature.

  • Only 16% of the incidents occurred on groomed trails designed for use by snowmobiles. 31% of injuries occurred when snowmobiles were traveling on roads.

  • Excessive speed was common. 82% of the crashes occurred at speeds greater than 50 km/h. Of these, 16% were traveling at speeds greater than 100 km/h.

  • 88% of the incidents occurred after dark.

  • The most common mechanism of injury was a collision (72%) with a third of those being the snowmobile simply hitting a mound of snow, covered rock or other type of “bump”. The authors note these bumps are less obvious at night, particularly if drivers are traveling so fast as to “overdrive” their headlights. 18% involved snowmobiles colliding with one another.

  • Another 16% involved a snowmobile hitting a moving or parked car.

  • Loss of control of the snowmobile was second at 18% and falling off the snowmobile while it was moving accounted for 10% of injuries.
He Ran Head-On Into a Tree

William Robert Ryan, 55, was on vacation in Canada when he died in February, 2000, after his snowmobile ran head-on into a tree after failing to negotiate a sharp turn.

At the time of the accident, William was snowmobiling near Montreal with his grandchildren and son-in-law.

William's daughter, Kellie Bancroft, said that her father had just begun riding down a trail when he crashed at a sharp turn about 500 yards from the cottage where he was staying.

Mrs. Bancroft's brother-in-law, John McLynch, was riding ahead of William, and when he failed to catch up, Mr. McLynch turned around and headed back toward the cottage.

He spotted William's wreck at the turn.

"My brother-in-law's a mess, he tried to perform CPR on William for an hour," Mrs. Bancroft said. "(Mr. McLynch) loved my father. He was like a father to him."

Relatives described William as the center of their family and said they are overwhelmed with grief.

"He was the kind of guy that everyone who knew him loved him," Mrs. Bancroft said. "He was everyone's best friend. He was the guy you called from plumbing problems to recipes. He was the caretaker of everyone and everything, from (being) the summer 'grill master' to cooking his family Christmas dinner."

She also said he was a man blessed with a wonderful 37-year marriage.

"He had a true love affair with his wife (Carol)," Mrs. Bancroft said. "Every time they looked at each other you could see the twinkle in their eyes for each other."

An avid fisherman and hunter his whole life, William also enjoyed boating and snowmobiling.

"He was a very fun-loving man," said Mrs. Bancroft.

He leaves behind his wife Carol; daughters Tracy McLynch, Mrs. Bancroft and Cheri Spada; their husbands; seven sisters; seven grandchildren; and many nieces and nephews.

Watch Out For..
  • Obstacles hidden by snow

  • Trees and branches on the trail

  • Snow-grooming equipment

  • Oncoming sleds

  • Other trail users

  • Wildlife

  • Trail washouts and flooding

  • Road and railway crossings

  • Unexpected corners, intersections and stops

  • Bridges, open water and unsafe ice

  • Logging operations

Rescuers and police cover up the body of a snowmobiler.


"Freak Accident"

Members of the Wertz Warriors are grieving after one of their own was killed during their annual snowmobile charity event.

Patrick Alexander Modos II, 39, died in February, 2004, when his snowmobile was involved in a series of crashes during a 1,200-mile snowmobile caravan in Kalkaska County, Michigan.

According to a Kalkaska sheriff's accident report, Modos was traveling with the Warriors on Smith Lake Road near Fife Lake,just 20 miles outside of the group's final destination of Grand Traverse Resort and Spa, when his 1997 Polaris was involved in one of three separate accidents.


Kalkaska County Under

-sheriff Billy Spencer said that Modos' vehicle and at least two other snowmobiles were involved in separate accidents.

Modos was thrown from his snowmobile and struck by a passing snowmobile driven by a fellow member. It was not immediately known what caused Modos to fall from his snowmobile, sheriff's officials said.

Their snowmobile event raises money each year for the Michigan Special Olympics Winter Games.

The group said the event will go on, but some members were having a difficult time coping with the loss, according to Local 4 reports.

"It was a freak accident and I saw it. And to lose a best friend … it was tough," said Joe Palmer, the victim's friend.

The Warriors plan to dedicate next year's event in memory of Modos.

Before You Go..
  • Get Trained – make sure to receive proper instruction about how to operate your snowmobile.

  • Inform someone of your destination and estimated arrival time.

  • Check to make sure your snowmobile is in full working order.

  • Wear the Gear - make sure to wear clothing that is warm, waterproof and has a built-in flotation device.

  • Always carry a first aid or survival kit.

  • Check weather conditions and avalanche warnings, if applicable.

Speed is a main cause of snowmobile accidents.
Once You're In the Snow...
  • Stick to marked trails whenever possible.

  • Stay on the right side of the trail to avoid oncoming traffic.

  • Keep your speed reasonable, especially at night.

  • Look First - exercise extreme caution when crossing roads, railway tracks, or trail intersections.

  • Check ice conditions before crossing a body of water.

  • Buckle Up – wear a helmet.

  • Drive Sober – alcohol, drugs, prescription medications or extreme fatigue combined with snowmobiling can be a prescription for death.

Don't end up mangled like this snowmobile.
Causes of Accidents

Most snowmobile accidents result from operator error, overconfidence or inexperience. Males aged 15 to 34 are the highest risk group.

The main contributing factors are:

  • alcohol

  • darkness

  • riding on roads or lakes

  • speed

  • unfamiliar terrain or ice

Rescuers and police recover the body of a snowmobiler.
More Recommendations
  • Always drive with others.

  • A flotation snowmobile suit is the best choice.

  • Always dress properly. Remember to wear your hat, helmet and mitts.

If you do break through the ice, don't panic.

  • Kick vigorously into a horizontal position and swim to the nearest ice edge.

  • Place hands/arms on unbroken ice while kicking hard to propel your body onto the ice, like a seal.

  • Once clear, stay flat and roll away to stronger ice.

  • Stand, keep moving and find shelter fast.