For many Nova Scotians, the winter months are a time to blaze trails and explore the province’s snow-covered landscapes with the speed and exhilaration of a high-performance snowmobile. In addition to providing Maritimers with an exciting form of wintertime recreation, off-highway vehicles serve a practical purpose for people in rural communities impacted by heavy snowfalls. In these areas, during the winter months, snowmobiling may be one of the easiest options for essential travel. 

With more than 700,000 registered snowmobiles across the country, it is clear that this form of off-highway vehicle is both a useful method of transportation and a popular winter pastime. However, even though snowmobiles may be used for recreational purposes, operating them safely requires training, alertness, common sense, and an understanding of specific rules. When accidents on snowmobiles occur, they can result in serious injuries, and even fatalities. 

Some injuries commonly sustained in snowmobile accidents include:

  • Broken or fractured bones
  • Whiplash and other soft tissue injuries
  • Concussions
  • Traumatic brain injuries 
  • Internal bleeding
  • Organ damage
  • Fractured ribs
  • Neck and back injuries
  • Spinal cord injuries
  • Paralysis 
  • And more

While some accidents may be unavoidable, the majority of snowmobile collisions– either with another driver or a stationary object– are preventable. That is why it is important for both seasoned snowmobilers and less experienced riders to take proper safety precautions every time they hit the trails. 

Canadian Snowmobile Accident Statistics 

A report released by Statistics Canada in January 2021 revealed that, on average, 73 Canadians are killed in a snowmobile accident each year. The majority of deadly snowmobile accidents involve only a single vehicle. When a high-speed snowmobile collides with a stationary object, its operator may not survive the crash. 

Additionally, the Canadian Red Cross reports that snowmobiling accounts for 55% of the country’s immersion deaths. These horrific fatalities occur when riding over frozen bodies of water whose ice shields are too thin to support the full weight of a heavy off-highway vehicle. Other common causes of deadly snowmobile accidents include ejection from the moving vehicle, rollovers, and avalanches. 

Fatalities and serious injuries can also occur when one snowmobile collides with another. 20% of the country’s snowmobile accidents involve more than one vehicle.

Men are overrepresented among the winter activity’s annual fatalities. In fact, nine out of ten fatal snowmobile accidents involve male riders. Regardless of age or level of experience, male snowmobile operators are far more likely to be involved in a deadly accident. The statistics reveal that most age demographics are represented almost equally in annual snowmobile accident fatalities, encompassing male riders between the ages of 20-64.

As with any high-powered, high-speed vehicle, non-fatal snowmobile accidents can cause serious injuries, which may impact the rest of an accident victim’s life. According to the Canadian Institute for Health and Information, nearly 1000 people each year are hospitalized because of injuries they’ve sustained in snowmobile accidents.

The overwhelming majority of these accidents are caused by impaired driving. Operating a snowmobile under the influence of alcohol or drugs can end in tragedy, and life-altering injuries. Other common risk factors of serious snowmobile accidents include excessive speeding, and driving at night.

Taking Precautions for a Safer Snowmobiling Experience 

Nova Scotia’s snowmobiles are regulated by the province’s Off-highway Vehicles Act. This legislation regulates the following:

  • Registration and permits
  • Insurance
  • Safety and equipment standards
  • Environmental protection
  • Permissible riding locations
  • Enforcement

In accordance with the province’s snowmobile rules and regulations, all snowmobile operators (with few exceptions) must have a safety training certificate in order to operate their off-highway vehicle. Safety training certificates can only be obtained by either successfully completing a safety training course, or by passing a safety test in addition to holding a valid driver’s license. 

Snowmobile operators are required to demonstrate their knowledge of safe vehicle operation, but receiving a safety certificate is not necessarily an indicator of future behaviour on the trail. In order to reduce the risk of being involved in a serious accident while snowmobiling, riders  should consider taking basic safety precautions before setting out on an expedition. These safety precautions include:

  • Do not drink and drive: Only operate your vehicle while sober. Do not drive a snowmobile under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Only drive your snowmobile during the day: If you must operate your vehicle after dark, reduce your speed to avoid collisions and overdriving your headlights.
  • Dress appropriately: By law, all snowmobile drivers are required to wear personal safety gear, including regulation helmets. Wear warm enough clothing for the weather conditions you’ll encounter, and consider wearing a personal floatation device if traveling over frozen bodies of water. Wear UV-protected sun-goggles to avoid “snow-blindness.”
  • Plan your route: Check with local authorities about any ice conditions you may encounter on your expedition. If traveling over frozen bodies of water, ensure that the ice is at least 25 cm thick. Inform your family member or friends of your intended route for the day.
  • Pack emergency supplies: Make sure your cell phone is fully-charged, and sealed in a waterproof container. Bring along other emergency supplies such as a flashlight, waterproof matches, a survival blanket, meal-replacement bars or other non-perishable high-energy foods, rope, flares, a whistle or air horn, and a first-aid kit.
  • Inspect your vehicle before riding: Make sure your snowmobile is in good working order, and that you have enough fuel to reach your destination and return safely.
  • Do Not Ride Alone: There is safety in numbers. Venturing out into cold, potentially hazardous conditions on your own can leave you stranded in life-threatening circumstances.

What To Do After a Snowmobile Accident 

If you or a family member was seriously injured in an off-highway vehicle accident, a Nova Scotia snowmobile accident lawyer may be able to review the circumstances of your accident, and explain any legal options that may be available to you. Depending on the nature of your accident, you may be eligible to pursue financial compensation for damages you incurred as a result of your injuries.

First and foremost, though, after surviving a snowmobile accident, it is important to seek immediate medical attention. Even if you do not feel as though you have sustained a serious injury, a thorough medical assessment may help identify the severity of injuries you have sustained, and could help prevent future complications in your recovery process.

If you are able to do so, starting to compile evidence from your accident may help substantiate your claim for damages if you are eligible to pursue financial compensation through legal action. Evidence may include:

  • Photos of the accident scene
  • Photos of damage to your vehicle
  • Photos of injuries you’ve sustained
  • Police reports
  • Eyewitness statements
  • The results of medical examinations
  • Invoices for medical expenses
  • Financial statements proving loss of income from missed work
  • And possibly more

Contact Preszler Injury Lawyers Today

If you were injured in a snowmobile accident caused by another party’s negligence, you may be entitled to financial compensation. To discuss the circumstances of the accident and learn if you’re eligible to pursue damages, contact us today

For a free, initial consultation, call Preszler Injury Lawyers at 902-405-8282.