The state Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife is responsible for enforcing the rules of the road on Maine’s 13,500-mile snowmobile trail network.
This year, in addition to the following safety tips, wardens are reminding riders to consider all ice-covered lakes, ponds, streams and waterways unsafe.
Riders should always:
• Be aware of conditions. Early season ice conditions remain questionable. Snowfall can insulate thin ice and slow the freezing process. Snow levels may vary on trails. Objects may be covered or barely hidden. Ride accordingly.
• Stay off roads and on trails. Early in the season, it is tempting to ride on roads. Don’t do it. It is illegal, and it puts both snowmobilers and automobile drivers in danger.
• Ride at a reasonable speed. Speed limits are determined by existing conditions. If you can’t control your sled safely at the speed you are going, you are going too fast. You are threatening not only your own safety, but also the safety of others around you. Slow down.
• Use hand signals. The use of a simple set of hand signals on the trails keeps traffic orderly and predictable. These signals inform other sledders of your actions. Know them and use them.
• Ride defensively. You can do everything right but still encounter a rider who is doing everything wrong. By riding defensively, you will be prepared to respond and avoid a dangerous situation.
• Ride to the right. Just like driving a car, it is required by law that a snowmobiler operate to the right of center on the trail when approaching or navigating a curve, corner, grade or hill. Stay to the right, even on straightaways.
• Ride sober. Don’t drink and ride. Don’t let anyone in your group drink and ride.