Snowmobile season is upon us and Californians up and down the Sierra Nevadas are heading out on the trail. Before you strap on your helmet, make sure you take appropriate measures to keep yourself, your passengers and your property safe. Following these snowmobile safety tips will help ensure you a good time while maintaining safety on the trail.
• First thing’s first: make sure your snowmobile is properly registered. In California, off-highway vehicles (OVHs) are required to be registered with the DMV. Each OVH will have either a green or red sticker. Green stickers are given to vehicles that comply with California Air Resource Board emission standards and allow for year-round use in OHV riding areas. Red stickers are for vehicles whose emissions outputs do not comply with the California standards. These vehicles can only be used seasonally. It’s important that you obey the laws as they pertain to your registration.
• Know your snowmobile. Before you head out on the trail, make sure you have a good working knowledge of your snowmobile, and especially its safety features.
• Perform an equipment check. Before heading out, make sure your brake, steering and throttle systems are all functioning properly, and that the hood and guards are firmly attached.
• Keep an emergency kit on your snowmobile at all times. This should include a standard first-aid kit, non-perishable food, a flashlight, a rope, and a multi-tool, as well as extra spark plugs and a drive belt, should yours give out while on the trail. In addition, keep an extra ignition key in your kit in case yours gets lost on the trail.
• Carry a portable GPS device. This is especially important when riding the backcountry.
• Make sure you have more than enough fuel to get where you’re going and back.
• Ride in OVH designated areas only. It is against the law in California to ride on-road, along the shoulder or in a ditch beside the road.
• Maintain appropriate speeds in designated OVH areas. While there are no speed limits on the trail, the recognized speed limit in crowded areas, such as lodges and resorts, is 15 MPH. Just as you would in a car, reduce your speed in harsh weather conditions and in times of poor visibility.
• Always yield to on-coming traffic, domestic animals and wildlife.
• Dress appropriately. Extreme temperatures combining with high speeds can be extremely dangerous. Make sure you wear waterproof gear and layer appropriately.
• Never drink and ride.
• Carry recreational vehicle insurance. While drivers are not required to carry insurance for snowmobiles under California law, it’s still a good idea to carry insurance for your snowmobile, which will help protect you from financial loss due to accident or injury.
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