Snowmobile Accidents in Canada

Edited by Admin
Snowmobile Accidents in Canada

Snowmobile Accidents in Canada


Canadians are enthusiasts when it comes to winter activities. Along with hockey, we take advantage of our wintry weather to participate in leisure activities such as skiing, skating, curling, tobogganing, and snowmobiling. The first modern snowmobile, the Ski-Doo, was invented in Quebec in 1922. Nearly a century later, there are approximately 600,000 snowmobiles in Canada, and their popularity is growing. It’s estimated that it rivals recreational fishing as a pastime, and that the industry adds $8 billion annually to the Canadian economy.


However, snowmobiling can be particularly risky. As many as 50 people per year die in snowmobiling accidents in Ontario and Quebec alone, and it’s estimated that another 1,200 Canadians are treated for injuries. While snowmobiling can be a wonderful way to get out into the fresh air and enjoy winter, it’s important to know the risks and take steps to ensure your safety.


Causes of Snowmobile Accidents


Ontario Provincial Police, who have noted a rise in snowmobiling deaths in recent years, have spoken out about some of the problems associated with the activity in the hopes of altering behaviour. These include:

  • Drinking while snowmobiling. Because snowmobiling is often a social activity that happens on the weekend with friends, drinking alcohol accompanies it far too often. Even though snowmobilers may not be using public roads, operating a snowmobile under the influence of alcohol or drugs is illegal. Alcohol impairs judgement. It also acts as a vasodilator, leading to a lowering of core body temperature in cold weather. The Canadian Council of Snowmobile Organizations endorses a “Zero Tolerance” position on drinking and riding. At the International Snowmobile Congress in 2002, snowmobile organizations endorsed a 0.0 percent blood alcohol content as the only acceptable level – yet a study of recent ATV and snowmobile deaths in Canada’s Atlantic region concluded that 44% of deaths on these vehicles still involved alcohol. If you operate a snowmobile, don’t drink.
  • Speed. Another major cause of snowmobile accidents is travelling at unsafe speeds. On a snowmobile, hitting a small rise or rock can cause the machine to spiral out of control or flip. Riders are often thrown from their machines and suffer catastrophic injuries as a result. On trails, there has even been an increase in snowmobile collisions. Part of the problem is that snowmobiles have become more and more powerful, and drivers are unable to control them on rough terrain or in difficult conditions.
  • Bad visibility. In any winter sport, visibility due to snow or fog can be a problem. Sometimes snowmobile operators fall victim to a winter blizzard that blows up while they are far from home. Snowmobilers have been killed by running into fences or trees or falling into open water due to poor visibility. Drivers who operate their machines at night also take risks with visibility. Always check weather reports before heading out, try to be home before dark, and have emergency supplies on hand in case you are caught out in bad weather.
  • Bad judgement. Fully one-third of the snowmobile accident deaths in Ontario in the winter of 2016-17 were due to machines and riders falling through the ice. Never take your machine onto a lake or river unless you are certain that it is frozen hard enough to bear the weight. If you are unsure, don’t risk it. Your chances of being able to get out of frigid water under these circumstances are slim. Each year, snowmobilers make the decision to ride in mountainous back-country. These areas have always posed a danger, and the effects of climate change make them even more prone to avalanches. Stick to safe trails and stay alive.
  • Underage operators. While most fatalities are middle-aged men, four children under the age of 16 die each year in snowmobile accidents in Canada. Make sure you are familiar with Government of Ontario regulations regarding proper licensing for snowmobile operators and take stringent safety precautions when allowing children to drive any vehicle.


    Mitigating Risk


    There are a few obvious ways to decrease your chances of being involved in a snowmobile accident:


  • Don’t drink.
  • Slow down.
  • Obey all of the rules of the road.
  • Avoid bad weather and night driving whenever possible.
  • Don’t take chances on ice or in back-country.
  • Don’t let children operate snowmobiles.

In addition, comply with the applicable Ontario safety regulations for snowmobile operators. Always wear a helmet. If you are towing people on a sled or other device, they are also required to wear helmets.


And use good sense -- winter in Canada can be deadly. Make sure your gas tank is full before leaving. Dress appropriately for the weather, and check trail conditions. Never set out alone. Tell someone where you’re going, and when you expect to be back. Take emergency supplies such as protein bars, a flashlight, a thermos full of tea, matches, a small axe, and dry clothing. Take tools and materials to make minor repairs on the snowmobile if necessary.


Snowmobiling in Canada is a great way to explore our wintry landscape. Always take precautions to stay safe and make snowmobile trips one of the highlights of your winter!