Snowmobiling is one of the great ways many Canadians keep active and enjoy the long winter. The Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC: ofsc.on.ca) maintains a vast system of trails that run through private and government-owned property. They do this work in cooperation with local snowmobile clubs such as the Carleton Regional Snowmobile Club (careltonregionalsc.ca), the West Carleton Snowmobile Trails Association (wcstai.com), and the Osgoode Carleton Snowmobile Trail Club (ocstc.ca). The OFSC offers annual permits and resources for snowmobilers.
Trails are patrolled by the OPP who educate riders about snowmobile safety and issue tickets when necessary. Tickets are commonly issued to those riding without a trail permit and those with expired permits. The police also operate RIDE checks looking for signs of impairment. In addition to regular OPP patrolling, the SAVE Team (Snow-Vehicle, All Terrain Vehicle and Vessel Enforcement) focus their efforts on education and enforcement with those who ride snowmobiles, boats and ATVs.
If done safely, snowmobiling can be a fun, exhilarating way to spend a winter day or evening. We encourage everyone to be safe while enjoying winter and staying active. Some important safety tips for snowmobilers include:
The OFSC offers a full list of safety tips on its website (ofsc.on.ca/safety/safety-tips).
A 2019 report from Public Health Ontario (publichealthontario.ca/-/media/Documents/A/2019/atv-snowmobiles-injuries-report.pdf?rev=170f4e848b4445a9bf2fa0cfc01662c7&sc_lang=en) notes that there were more than 2,900 snowmobile-related ER visits in 2015-2016, with children under the age of 16 and males representing a large proportion of these injuries. The most common type of injury requiring hospitalization was fractures and the most common mechanism of injury was falling off or being ejected, followed closely by the snowmobile rolling over.
There are special considerations for children. In 2016, we published an article about snowmobile safety for children: com/articles/are-snowmobiles-safe-for-children. In this article, we noted that the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that no one under the age of 16 should operate a snowmobile, because their maturity, size and strength place them at a significant disadvantage in controlling these machines. Further, children six and under should never even ride as passengers on a snowmobile. As well as strength, it takes stamina to hold on, particularly over bumpy terrain and for longer drives, which is another reason why young children are disadvantaged as riders. A head injury for a child whose brain is still developing can be devastating and some fractures in children can lead to life-long problems.
Injuries do happen. If you are injured while snowmobiling, you may have the right to benefits from your insurance company and compensation from the person at fault for your injuries. We encourage you to call our office for a free consultation with a personal injury lawyer so that you understand your rights and obligations.
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