Thanks to Al Tompkins at The Poynter Institute, we have some great tips for folks heading out into the snow this season...

Sports-related Winter Injuries

Winter sports are tons of fun, but pediatric trauma centers say they see a significant number of sports-related injuries this time of year. Just look at the number of accidents that have occured around the country. Many stem from people riding snowmobiles. reports:

"We see a startling number of injuries among children, from sledding accidents to snowmobile crashes and beyond," says Amy Teddy, manager of the pediatric injury prevention program at University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children's Hospital.

Experts advise that helmets should be worn when snowboarding, sledding, snowmobiling and skiing, especially by children under the age of 12. More than 70,000 head injuries occur from sledding and other similar activities each year, according to a study by the Consumer Product Safety Commission.

The Cheboygan (MI) Daily Tribune reports:

Michigan Department of Natural Resources officials have reviewed fatality statistics and concluded that there are three major factors involved in the majority of fatal accidents.

According to DNR officials, alcohol consumption, a collision, and an accident that occurred off a groomed (plowed) snowmobile trail.

The International Snowmobile Congress in June 2002 endorsed a zero-percent blood alcohol level as the only acceptable level for riding a snowmobile.
The CBC reports that drinking while snowmobiling is becoming a bigger problem in Canada. According to a report released by the Canadian Institute for Health Information last year, almost half (49 percent) of all snowmobile accidents from 2003 to 2004 were alcohol-related. That's almost double the figure of 26 percent just three years earlier. (See full report)

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) says:

The CPSC estimates that each year about 110 people die while riding snowmobiles. The Commission estimates that about 13,400 hospital emergency room-treated injuries occur each year with snowmobiles. Approximately two-fifths or 40 percent of the reported deaths resulted from colliding with trees, wires, bridges, and other vehicles. Some deaths occurred when the snowmobile rolled to the side in a ditch or stream and pinned the operator under the vehicle. Deaths also have occurred when the snowmobile entered water, mostly when it was operating on ice and fell through.

The CPSC offers these tips:

1. Never drive your snowmobile alone or on unfamiliar ground. Have someone ride along with you so you can help each other in case of breakdown or accident.

2. Drive only on established and marked trails or in specified use areas.

3. Avoid waterways. Frozen lakes and rivers can be fatal. It is almost impossible to judge adequate ice coverage or depth.

4. Avoid driving in bad weather. Check warnings for snow, ice and wind chill conditions before starting.

5. Watch the path ahead to avoid rocks, trees, fences (particularly barbed wire), ditches and other obstacles.

6. Slow down at the top of a hill. A cliff, snowbank or other unforeseen hazard could be on the other side.

7. Don't hurdle snowbanks. You have control only when your skis are on the ground.

8. Learn the snowmobile traffic laws and regulations for the area. Many states prohibit using snowmobiles on public roads. Some states have minimum age requirements for drivers.

9. Be sensible about stopping at roads or railroad tracks. Signal your turns to other drivers. Avoid tailgating. Control speed according to conditions.

10. Use extra caution if driving at night, as unseen obstacles could be fatal. Do not drive faster than your headlights will allow you to see. Do not open new trails after dark.

11. Never drink while driving your snowmobile. Drinking and driving can prove fatal.

12. Be sure the snowmobile is properly maintained in good operating condition. Some cases report that the throttle sticks, leading to loss of control. Snowmobiles manufactured before 1983 may not have a "throttle interruption device" designed to shut off the snowmobile in the event the throttle sticks.