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How to avoid becoming a snowmobile statistic this winter

Are you one of the thousands of Michiganders planning to hit the snowmobile trails this winter for the first time – or perhaps for the first time in a while? While this can be an extremely fun way to spend a day, remember that it has to be taken seriously. Snowmobile accidents can be deadly.

In addition to being safe yourself, you have to keep an eye out for others who might not be as conscientious. Taking a safety course, even if you've taken one in the past, never hurts.

It's essential to know the state requirements around snowmobiles here in Michigan or wherever you're operating one. Many states require a snowmobile certificate and each state has its own rules and regulations.

Some types of snowmobile accidents and activities can impact your driver's license – such as operating a snowmobile under the influence. In Michigan, it's also illegal to operate a snowmobile if you have a suspended or revoked driver's license.

One thing that gets too many snowmobilers into trouble is going off the beaten track. It can be tempting to take the "road less traveled." However, marked public trails are typically better cared for and have fewer hazards than unmarked ones.

You also want to avoid going on to someone's private land without their permission. If a property owner gets too many people moving over from a nearby public trail to their land, the public trail could end up having to close.

Just as when you're driving a car, you need to remain alert on a snowmobile. Even well-marked public trails have their share of fallen trees, rocks, ditches, animals, skiers and hikers.

Pay attention to the posted speed limit. If there isn't one, use common sense. Either way, don't drive too fast for conditions.

All of these tips can help you avoid being the cause of a crash or the victim of one. However, if you are injured by a reckless or negligent snowmobiler or if your snowmobile was defective, find out about your rights to seek compensation to help you cover medical costs and other expenses and damages.

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