State officials warn snowmobilers to refrain from alcohol use when on trails in St. Lawrence County, rest of NY
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) and New York State Police is warning snowmobilers of the dangers of drinking and driving when operator a snowmobile.
In New York, a snowmobile driver can be charged with Snowmobiling While Intoxicated (SWI) if he or she operates a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Any snowmobile driver with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher more can be charged with an SWI, the snowmobile equivalent of a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offense. A misdemeanor conviction can result in a permanent criminal record, a maximum fine of $1500, up to 90 days in jail, and a 12-month suspension of snowmobiling privileges. Intoxication can be proven through different types of evidence including BAC chemical tests (breath, blood, or urine), law enforcement’s observations, and other factors. An SWI charge is upgraded to a felony when there are two prior convictions."Alcohol use and imprudent speed are the most common factors behind snowmobile crashes," State Parks Acting Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said. "We urge snowmobilers to avoid alcohol, drive within your abilities, within speed limits, and to reduce speeds during inclement or nighttime operation. Knowing and following safety recommendations will help ensure that you and your friends and family will have a great time on the trail."
Also, a snowmobile driver can be charged with Snowmobiling While Ability Impaired (SWAI). The penalty for a SWAI conviction can include a fine up to $350, jail time up to 15 days, and a suspension of snowmobile privileges for six months. A second type of SWAI charge involves driving a snowmobile while under the influence of drugs. Similar to a DWAI-Drugs, the SWAI-Drugs charge is a misdemeanor offense that can be brought against any snowmobiler who operates the vehicle while on drugs. If convicted, an SWAI-Drugs charge can bring harsh penalties, including a fine up to $500, jail time up to 90 days, and a one-year suspension of your snowmobile registration and privileges.
Top safety recommendations include:
• Be aware that fluctuating weather late in the season can quickly result in unsafe conditions – including blow downs, low hanging branches, water hazards, ice, washouts and exposed hazards due to minimal snow coverage.
• Check over your snowmobile; make sure it is in good working order and carry emergency supplies.
Always wear a helmet and make sure you wear the proper snowmobile-riding gear including bibs, jackets, boots and gloves.
• Always ride with a buddy or at least one other person.
• Ride responsibly. Ride within your ability, ride to the right and operate at a safe and prudent speed at all times. Respect landowners, obey posted signs and stay on the marked trail.
• Frozen bodies of water are not designated trails; if you plan to ride on ice, proceed with caution and be aware of potential hazards under the snow as well as ice thickness.
• Four inches of ice is usually safe for accessing ice on foot. Double that thickness for traveling on white ice. Ice thickness can vary on every body of water or even within the same body of water. The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be considered evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. Testing the thickness of ice can be done with an auger or ice spud at various spots.
• Never drink alcohol or use drugs and ride.