Winter’s here? Snow way!

Driving tips and snowmobile safety

Posted 12/29/21

REGION — Let me be the guy everyone will hate. Even though December’s been unseasonably warm, winter weather will catch up to us and we will be driving in it. There’s still plenty …

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Winter’s here? Snow way!

Driving tips and snowmobile safety


REGION — Let me be the guy everyone will hate. Even though December’s been unseasonably warm, winter weather will catch up to us and we will be driving in it. There’s still plenty of time for the arrival of the cold winter that the almanac predicted, which would come with above-average ice and snow.

New Year’s Day is approaching. People travel to celebrate better times ahead. If they spent Christmas with loved ones, they might be heading home.

Celebrate safely on your snowmobile

REGION — Look, we all celebrate differently.

Some of us go hunting. If you’re in New York, there’s even a special Holiday Hunt deer season until Saturday, January 1. Some of us go ice fishing, assuming there is ice. (Without ice, it would probably just be “fishing.”)

And some go snowmobiling, assuming there is snow. (And possibly even if there isn’t snow. The website offroadingpro.com argues that you can drive your snowmobile around on grass, on trails or on flat land. Others argue that it isn’t good for the snowmobile, so you should probably ask your snowmobile dealer.)  

As the snowmobiling season begins, New York State urges riders to keep safety in mind, both when operating on trails and during any breaks with fellow riders.

State park police, state troopers, environmental conservation police, forest rangers and local law enforcement agencies enforce laws on snowmobile trails. Those laws include instances of unsafe or reckless operation, exceeding the speed limit and snowmobiling while intoxicated.

The rules apply on all local and club trails, as well as the statewide trail system.

Snowmobiles must be registered annually before hitting the trail.

The state recommends that, prior to starting your ride, you should check over the snowmobile to make sure it is in good working order and carry emergency supplies.

Always wear a DOT- or SNELL-approved helmet and make sure to wear the proper snowmobile gear including bibs, jackets, boots and gloves.

Always ride with a buddy or at least one other person.

Ride responsibly and within your abilities.

Always ride to the right side of the trail, especially at hill crests and curves.

Operate at a speed which is safe and prudent for the given conditions.

Respect landowners, obey posted signs, and stay on the marked trail.

Frozen bodies of water are not designated trails. If planning to ride on ice, proceed with caution and be aware of potential hazards under the snow. Consider wearing a snowmobile suit with flotation built in, and carry a set of ice picks as a precaution.

Never drink alcohol or use drugs and ride.

Snowmobile safety courses are listed at https://parks.ny.gov/recreation/snowmobiles/safety-courses.aspx. Successful completion of this course results in the issuance of a NYS snowmobile safety certificate. The certificate is required for youth between ages 10 and 18 to operate a snowmobile, but all riders can benefit from a course that provides fundamental information that everyone needs to ensure the safety of both rider and other trail users.

For more information on snowmobiling in New York, visit https://parks.ny.gov/recreation/snowmobiles.

And of course, after the holidays, we all go back to work on those icy roads.

There’s always an annual learning curve in getting ready to navigate frost, ice and snow. So, here are some Triple-A driving tips when navigating a slippery and sliding commute on Route 97 or a treacherous stretch of Route 52.

First, your car

Keep a bundle of cold-weather gear in your car. It should include items like extra food and water, warm clothing, a brightly colored cloth, a flashlight, a glass scraper, blankets, medications, and more.

Make certain your tires are properly inflated and have plenty of tread.

Keep at least half a tank of fuel in your vehicle at all times.

Never warm up a vehicle in an enclosed area, such as a garage.

Do not use cruise control when driving on any slippery surface, such as on ice and snow.

Tips for driving in winter weather

Only go out when necessary. Even if you can drive well in bad weather, it’s better to avoid taking unnecessary risks by venturing out.

Always adjust your speed down to account for lower traction when driving on snow or ice.

Accelerate and decelerate slowly. Apply the gas slowly to regain traction and avoid skids. Remember: It takes longer to slow down on icy roads.

Increase your following distance to five to six seconds. This increased margin of safety will provide the longer distance needed if you have to stop.

Don’t power up hills. Applying extra gas on snow-covered roads will just make your wheels spin. Try to get a little inertia going before you reach the hill and let that inertia carry you to the top. As you reach the crest of the hill, reduce your speed and proceed downhill slowly.

Before hitting the road, notify others and let them know your route, destination and estimated time of arrival.

If you get stuck in the snow

Stay with your vehicle. Your vehicle provides temporary shelter and makes it easier for rescuers to locate you. Do not try to walk in a severe storm. It is easy to lose sight of your vehicle in blowing snow and become lost.

Don’t overexert yourself. When digging out your vehicle, listen to your body and stop if you become tired.

Be visible. Tie a brightly colored cloth to the antenna of your vehicle or place a cloth at the top of a rolled-up window to signal distress. At night, keep the dome light on if possible. It only uses a small amount of electricity and will make it easier for rescuers to find you.

Clear the exhaust pipe. Make sure the exhaust pipe is not clogged with snow, ice or mud. A blocked exhaust pipe can cause deadly carbon monoxide gas to leak into the passenger compartment of the vehicle while the engine is running.

Stay warm. Use whatever is available to insulate your body from the cold. This could include floor mats, newspapers or paper maps. Pre-pack blankets and heavy clothing to use in case of an emergency.

Conserve fuel. If possible, only run the engine and heater long enough to remove the chill. This will help to conserve fuel.

winter driving, snow, travel, icy roads, snowmobile, safety


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