OPP Release 10-Year Data Report On Snowmobile Fatalities During Snowmobile Safety Week

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Andrew Walasek, director of stakeholder relations for the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, speaks at the press conference at OPP General Headquarters in Orillia on Jan. 22. Photo by Maddie Binning

The OPP revealed details from their 10-year data report on snowmobile fatalities while kicking off Snowmobile Safety Week at the OPP General Headquarters in Orillia on Jan. 22.

With Snowmobile Safety Week running from Jan. 18 to 26, the OPP are encouraging snowmobilers to avoid behaviours that contributed to the majority of the incidents over the past decade. From 2009 to 2019, the OPP investigated 175 snowmobile fatalities throughout the province. Excessive speed, loss of control, driving too fast for the conditions and alcohol impairment were the top contributing factors in snowmobile-related deaths. Alcohol was involved in 45 per cent of the deaths, according to the report.    

Chief Superintendent Rohan Thompson, Parliamentary Assistant to the MTO minister Vijay Thanigasalam, OSFC Director of Stakeholder Relations Andrew Walasek and Christine Hogarth parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General, at the OPP headquarters in Orillia on Jan. 22. Photo by Maddie Binning

“Every season we see the same risks being taken by snowmobilers on land, lakes and rivers. The only thing we cannot predict is how many lives will be lost one year to the next,” said Chief Superintendent Rohan Thompson. “With the first half of January seeing mild temperatures in many parts of Ontario, we cannot stress enough the importance of staying off waterways that remain insufficiently frozen and unsafe.”

Nearly half of the snowmobilers that died were traveling on frozen lakes or rivers at the time of the incident, which often involves riders intentionally driving onto open water for puddle jumping/water skipping, breaking through the ice, or colliding with other snowmobiles and natural landmarks. 

“Sometimes it’s a rescue. Sadly, sometimes a body recovery operation,” Thompson said. “Regardless of which one, don’t be that snowmobiler. Don’t let a family member be that snowmobiler. If you know your loved one is taking a risk while snowmobiling, remind them how important it is to you and your family that they make it home safely after every ride.”

Christine Hogarth, parliamentary assistant to the Solicitor General, also spoke at the event, highlighting the importance of staying on marked trails and being prepared for emergencies. She encouraged snowmobilers to pack an emergency kit before heading out to ride, in part because snowmobiling has the highest rate of serious injury among winter sports.

OPP Officer Smith shows visitors the screen in a search-and-rescue helicopter. Photo by Maddie Binning

“If it’s a short trip or a long haul, just be prepared,” Hogarth said. “Most snowmobilers are outdoors enthusiasts and enthusiasts all year round, and it’s important that you apply the same rules of safety to snowmobiling as you would skiing, boating, ATV riding or any other recreational activity.”

With mild conditions and open water in some areas, the OPP are encouraging snowmobilers to put safety first and avoid common mistakes that lead to preventable accidents and deaths.

“I saw plenty of trucks pulling snowmobile trailers this morning coming up north,” said OPP Sergeant Kerry Schmidt. “I know this weekend’s going to be a busy weekend for many riders out there, so please be safe, have fun and have great stories to tell when you get home.”

Snowmobiling safety tips from the OPP and
the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs (OFSC):

  • Don’t let alcohol or drugs be part of any ride.
  • Maintain control of your snowmobile at all times.
  • Be aware of the unique and increased risk associated with snowmobiling on frozen lakes or rivers. Better yet, avoid frozen waterways altogether.
  • Plan ahead using the OFSC Interactive Trail Guide and stay on marked trails. OFSC prescribed trails are subject to laws under the motorized vehicles act, so riders are responsible to know and understand the laws.
  • No ice is safe ice.
  • Check the interactive trail guide and local ice conditions.
  • Always stay to the right on the marked trail.
  • All riders should ensure they use proper safety equipment in addition to wearing appropriate outerwear for the environmental conditions they may encounter.
  • In an unpredictable natural environment, expect the unexpected. Weather conditions can change without notice and you should always be prepared.
Chief Superintendent Rohan Thompson and Sergeant Paul Potter talking with Paul Murray, president of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs, at the OPP headquarters in Orillia on Jan. 22. Photo by Maddie Binning

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