Snowmobile Accidents in Ontario

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Snowmobile Accidents in Ontario
Snowmobile Accidents in Ontario

It was a Canadian, Joseph-Armande Bombardier, who perfected the design of the modern snowmobile, with his 1922 “Ski-Doo” design, and ever since, Canadians have had a love affair with the sport of snowmobiling. The snowmobile is the perfect recreational vehicle for Canadian winters; today there are over 700,000 registered snowmobiles and more than 161,000 kilometres of snowmobile trails in the country. Ontario has one of the longest networks of recreational trails in the world, with over 30,000 kilometres (18,641 miles) of interconnected trails.


But snowmobiling also has a dangerous side. Drivers may encounter hazards hidden by snow, or collide with other vehicles. Often alcohol is a part of snowmobile gatherings, leading to poor decision-making. (It’s estimated that alcohol is a factor in approximately half of the cases of severe trauma caused by snowmobiling.) Bad weather can also play a major role in snowmobiling accidents, as can inexperience – it’s legal for children as young as 12 to drive a snowmobile in Ontario as long as they have a valid Motorized Snow Vehicle Operator’s License (MSVOL). Snowmobilers often ride at night, when visibility is poor. Many don’t wear helmets. Some take foolish chances. And some of today’s machines can achieve speeds of more than 150 miles per hour (240 kilometres/hour).


Maclean’s magazine documented fatal accidents in Canada over the period of one week in February of 2016. The fatalities that week included four men who died in Ontario: two who died in a collision in cottage country, one who drowned after falling through the ice, and one who died after striking a snow mound and vaulting into the trees. The previous month had seen several other serious accidents, including a father and son who both died after their snow machines collided in rural Manitoba. And the following month, an Ottawa-area man died after going off-trail and crashing into a ditch – almost exactly one year after his uncle had died in a similar snowmobile accident.



Fatalities get some attention from the media, but less well known is the fact that a large number of Canadians are injured while riding snowmobiles. Each winter, more than a hundred people per week visit emergency rooms for treatment of injuries that occurred while snowmobiling. Statistics show that the vast majority of these patients are males, and most are the drivers of the snowmobiles. About 10% of the emergency room cases are admitted to hospital, and half of these are critical care cases.


If you are a snowmobile enthusiast, here are some safety measures that can help to keep you and your family and friends out of the emergency room:


  • Wear the proper gear – including a helmet.
  • Check your machine thoroughly before you leave. Read the owner’s manual, and make sure the driver knows how to operate the machine. Fill the tank with gas. Don’t head out unless you have the proper insurance and permits.
  • Ride with a partner.
  • Stay on approved trails, and don’t trespass. Keep to the right side of the trail. Never ride on railroad tracks.
  • Keep to the speed limit. On Ontario trails, the maximum speed is 50 km/hour, and 20km/hour where posted.
  • Plan your route, and advise someone of your plan, and your estimated arrival time. Carry a charged cellphone, and a GPS device.
  • Stay off lake or rive ice unless you know how thick it is. If you do ride on ice, wear a flotation device. Avoid the ice unless you’re certain it’s safe.
  • Be cautious; look for obstacles on the trail such as tree branches. Be aware of other snowmobilers in the area.
  • Carry a survival kit with first aid supplies and items such as: a rope, waterproof matches/fire starter, energy bars, water, survival blankets, a knife or multi-tool, wire and nylon rope, and extra clothing. 
  • Slow down while driving at night. Avoid driving on the shoulder of the road at night, since snowmobile lights can be confusing to motor vehicles.
  • Never drink alcohol or take drugs while operating a snowmobile.

In Ontario, these kinds of accidents are usually covered by your insurance, through the province’s no-fault accident benefits system. If someone else is responsible for the accident, you may be eligible to make a tort claim against the responsible party’s insurance, or if the road and property conditions were a cause, you may have a claim against the property owner (as long as you were not trespassing.)



Each case is different, but depending on the nature of your injuries, you may receive compensation for lost income, medical services, housekeeping, personal care, and rehabilitation expenses.


If you or a family member has had a snowmobile accident, call a personal injury lawyer, who will be able to advise you how to proceed. You should also write down as many details about the accident as you can think of in a timely fashion, so that your lawyer will have all of the relevant material about your case.


Accidents happen; if you need someone on your side, call Sokoloff Lawyers today.

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