CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - DNR officials and snowmobile clubs are advising caution for snowmobilers during International Snowmobile Safety Week.
Iowa has already seen snowmobile-related deaths this winter, most recently when a Mount Pleasant man died earlier this month in Henry County. Wisconsin DNR officials reported seven people have died in that state since the beginning of the riding season, the accidents caused by varying combinations of speed, alcohol, and driving at night.
Jamie Prull, president of Linn County's Frozen Few Club, is reminding snowmobilers that going off the beaten path can be dangerous.
"If you're riding off trails, make sure it's an area that you know, and keep the snowmobile at speeds within your limitations," Prull said.
The Frozen Few Club takes care of about 250 miles of trails in the Linn County area, many of them visible in ditches along area roads and highways. Prull said these are the safest places to enjoy the sport.
"Culverts are marked, railroad crossing are marked, stop signs are marked," said Prull, adding that they're also groomed, meaning no surprise obstacles hiding beneath the snow. "I have many friends I know have done that...they thought it was snow, but it ended up being a light pole, or a railroad tie or something underneath."
Prull said snowmobiles have evolved over the years, and can easily top 100 miles per hour. He sees many accidents happen simply because some riders want to go too fast, too soon.
"They're a lot faster than what they used to be, and people just getting into it will push them to their limit. Yeah, it's an adrenaline rush, but if you're going to be riding like that, you need to do it in a safe atmosphere," Prull said.