AUGUSTA, Maine -- Game Wardens and the Maine Snowmobile Association are teaming up again this winter to ensure that this snowmobile season starts, and ends safely. The Maine Warden Service and the Maine Snowmobile Association are working together to ensure safe riding on the state's 13,000 miles of groomed trails that stretch from Kittery to Fort Kent.
Last year there were 202 snowmobile accidents and seven fatalities. That was down for the 401 accidents and 16 fatals in the 2003 season. New Year's weekend often is the beginning of the snowmobiling season for many riders. Maine Game Wardens have scheduled enforcement details and trail safety checks throughout the state during that period, as well as throughout the winter season.
Snowmobiling is popular throughout the state, and last year, 88,237 riders registered their snowmobiles in Maine, including 19,020 nonresidents. According to a 1997 Economic Report done by the University of Maine, snowmobiling has an economic impact of over $265 million dollars. Recent estimates put the impact at over $350 million. The impact is greatest in rural areas of the state, and snowmobiling supports many small family businesses such as restaurants, motels gas stations, lodges, etc.
Enforcement details will key on safety, specifically on: operating a snowmobile to endanger or with imprudent speed, as well as operating a snowmobile under the influence. Peak use times are often heavily staffed with wardens directed to concentrate on high visibility snowmobile enforcement using dedicated snowmobile enforcement funds. Funds for special enforcement activities are raised directly through the sale of nonresident snowmobile registrations.
Safety Checks are done in conjunction with local snowmobile clubs. Game Wardens, along with volunteers from the club set up in a highly visible area, and after snowmobiles stop, they work through a checklist of safety points that include lights, brakes, skis, belts and spare equipment among others. They work with the operator quickly, impressing upon the need for safety and driving responsibly.
The Maine Snowmobile Association and the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife has also produced Ride Right-Ride Smart Interactive CD. The goal of the CD is to make it as easy as possible for everyone to learn snowmobile safety, whether you are heading out on the trail for the first time, or even if you are an experienced rider. The MSA also designed and delivered a Ride Right, Ride Safe educational video and training program to snowmobile clubs and dealers. These projects were funded with assistance from the Maine Outdoor Heritage Fund.
If you are interested in finding out where and when there is a snowmobile safety course, or have a Game Warden or IFW safety coordinator visit your school or large business, please contact the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife at 287-8000.
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