As Northwest Pennsylvania lawyers who help people injured in snowmobile accidents, we've come to learn a few safety tips about the popular winter sport. To avoid being another one of our snowmobiling injury clients, check out these safety tips.

Snow is a fact of life in the counties of northwest Pennsylvania. And snowmobiling is a fun way to enjoy the outdoors this time of year. However, there are real dangers associated with the sport. Each year there are approximately 14,000 injuries and 200 deaths.* The vast bulk of these injuries occur off trail and/or involve alcohol. Most deaths occur among males, aged 20-34. But following a few well-established safety tips will help you to avoid injury and accident on your snowmobile.

What You're Wearing

Helmets : Some Pennsylvanians think that the law was changed so that helmets were no longer required in Pennsylvania. While that is true for motorcyclists, the law that pertains to snowmobiles has not been changed. It is still the law in Pennsylvania that snowmobilers are required to wear a helmet. Plus, it's a great idea. (Goggles or a visor are important, too).

Reflective Clothing : Sure, you need to wear appropriate layers to stay warm, but we're more concerned here with being seen. Your outer layers should have reflective striping so that you can be seen from the side and behind.

Alcohol and Snowmobiling: Most snowmobiling fatalities involve the use of alcohol. In any amount, it slows your perception and reaction time and limits your ability to control your sled. Also, contrary to popularly belief, it increases your susceptibility to cold weather. Snowmobiling is a sport best enjoyed sober.

Night Riding : Most snowmobile accidents occur after dark. Forward visibility is reduced. Fixed objects can be more difficult to perceive, particularly hazards like fence lines or strung cable. It is not uncommon for snowmobilers to override the reach of their headlights. So, if you're going to ride at night, slow down.

Ride with a Buddy : You should avoid riding alone. Most accidents result in some injury and, while many injuries might be survivable, you may not be able to go for help. Your situation could be made dramatically worse by prolonged exposure. Even with a buddy, you should also tell someone where you're going and when you expect to be back and provide them with a good description of your sled.

Ice : Drowning is one of the leading causes of snowmobile accident fatalities. Avoid riding on frozen lakes or rivers or crossing frozen streams. Ice conditions are never a safe bet and can change hour by hour. If you do break through ice, don't panic. Kick vigorously to get yourself into a horizontal position and swim to the nearest ice edge. Place your hands/arms on the unbroken ice and kick hard to propel your body onto the ice. Stay flat and roll to stronger ice or the edge. Keep moving and get to shelter fast.

Trails : Stay on marked trails or, if you're traveling on a road (where permitted), stay on the right shoulder. Unmarked trails not only put you in an area where you may not be found by others in the event of an accident but they also present hidden dangers. Property owners, for example, may not want snowmobilers and may stretch braided cable across known snowmobile trails. Uncertain snow conditions and obstacles hidden in the snow are also more likely to occur in unmarked areas.

Carry Emergency Equipment : A first-aid kit, flashlight, knife, compass, map and waterproof matches are a must. Other helpful stuff includes a cell phone, GPS, water, high energy food, and extra clothing.

Your snowmobiling experience should be a fun and safe one. Following these tips will help to ensure that you or a loved one doesn't have to seek help from a Pennsylvania snowmobile accident lawyer.

Contact an Experienced Pennsylvania Snowmobile Injury Attorney

As qualified Pennsylvania snowmobile injury lawyers who have helped people in Erie, Crawford, Mercer, Venango, Forest and Warren Counties, we understand how to evaluate these cases and help you make things right. Call Purchase, George & Murphey, P.C. today, toll free 877-505-9548 or locally at 814-580-5017 to schedule your free and confidential consultation with an experienced Erie snowmobile accident lawyer.

* Clinical Orthopaedics & Related Research: April 2003 - Volume 409 - Issue - pp 29-36