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State pushing snowmobile safety this week

Posted by: Jenna Ross Updated: January 21, 2014 - 4:23 PM

State officials are urging people to slow down and stay sober on their snowmobiles.

It's Minnesota Snowmobile Safety Awareness Week -- when the state Department of Natural Resources, or DNR, reminds drivers to take a snowmobile safety course and use common sense on the trails.

Accidents often involve three common factors: speed, night and alcohol, said Capt. Mike Hammer, education program coordinator with the DNR.

"You combine all those three things," he said, "and you're setting yourself up to become an accident statistic."

So far this season, six people have died on snowmobiles -- including a 22-year-old Maple Grove man who crashed Saturday in north-central Minnesota. Poor visibility because of weather, alcohol use and speed were likely factors, officials said.

The number of deaths a season is closely tied to the start and amount of snowfall, Hammer said. This year's number is "probably average, unfortunately" for a snowy winter, he said.

Last winter, there were eight snowmobiling fatalities, according to the DNR's count. Five of those incidents involved alcohol.

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