The search continues for a snowmobiler who went under the water on the Mississippi River Sunday while apparently trying a maneuver called "skipping" over an open patch of water. Dave Downing of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources says this would be the fourth snowmobile-related death he knows of this year.
Downing says after several years where the snow has been scarce, or short-lived, snowmobile traffic is way up. He says we’ve had not just a lot of snow, but sustained snow that has lasted several weeks and that has led to a record year of snowmobile activity. With that activity has come some problems, including a Clear Lake snowmobile rider who was thrown off his ride and later cited for allegedly being drunk.
Downing says mixing alcohol and snowmobiling is dangerous. "Use the same caution you would when you drive your car," Downing says. He says use common sense, as a lot of the trails wind through towns and people stop and eat and have drinks, but he says you need to be cautious if you have drinks, "both from a safety standpoint and a legal standpoint."
Downing says the "skipping" maneuver is something shown on TV shows, but is not something an amateur snowmobiler should try. Downing says:"It’s illegal and it’s very dangerous to do that type of activity, and in this case, I’m not sure if alcohol played a role, but it often does." There are safety and training requirements for people under the age of 18 when it comes to operating a snowmobile, but Downing says there aren’t such requirements for those over 18.
Downing says the DNR often gets asked if you have to have a driver’s license to operate a snowmobile — and the answer is no. But he says there are restrictions if you have had your driver’s license revoked or suspended, particularly for alcohol offenses, as the snowmobile is considered a motor vehicle. Downing says you can find a complete list of rules and regulations governing snowmobiles on the D-N-R website, and there’s also a list of the safety courses that are available in the state.