Who, Where, How, When, and Why?

Data Sources Used To Answer This Question:

         1995 Ontario Snowmobile Safety Committee/Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs published report entitled "A Five Year Report on Snowmobile Injuries and Fatalities in Ontario". The study time frame includes the snowmobile seasons 1998/99 to 1992/93.

         Dr. Brian Rowe published report entitled "Snowmobilers in a Northern Ontario Community: A Survey of characteristics, injury profiles and strategies for injury prevention".

How Big Is The Problem?

         Add fatalities to the thousands of snowmobilers who are seriously injured each year and require extensive hospital care and post incident rehabilitation and the problem is indeed serious.

         Ask Doug Jeffery's from Terrace Bay about his post incident experience or Chris MacDonald who is confined to a wheel chair the rest of his life, or Rehna Merrifield who I'm sure wishes the clock could be turned back and her son could have a second chance to make a "Smart Choice" decision.

WHO is getting injured and killed?

         2/3rds of Ontario victims are teens and young adults between the ages of 16 and 34,

The bottom line is that it is young men who are most at risk of being Injured or killed.

WHERE are these incidents occurring?

         OPP/STOP reports for snowmobile seasons 1996/97 to 2000/01 show an average of 26% of fatalities occurring on trail.

         On the injury side, the percentages are in the neighborhood of 80% off trail and 20% on trail, for the 12-year period 1988/89 and 2000/01.

         In recent years, the number one location for snowmobile incidents to occur is on streets and highways - approximately 40%.

         Lakes and rivers is the second most frequent location, at between 20 and 25% depending on the study.

         Un-groomed trails are the third most frequent location for incidents, at between 15 and 30% depending on the study.

         Groomed trails come in at the fourth most frequent location for an incident to occur, approximately 20%,

Trend Note: For the period 1988 to 1992, 54% of fatal snowmobile incidents occurred on lakes and rivers. That percentage has steadily declined to where last year, it was 31%,

HOW are snowmobilers getting injured and killed?

Drowning used to be the number one cause of snowmobile deaths. The remainder was the result of serious injury.

In more recent years, the majority of deaths are due to serious trauma (combined multiple injuries, head injuries, chest injuries, broken necks, compound fractures to the legs and the pelvis).

If it is not a drowning, the injuries, be they fatal or not are caused by:

WHEN do snowmobile incidents occur?

Snowmobiling injuries and fatalities tend to occur during hours of darkness.

         Over 70% of all incidents involving a fatality and 50% of incidents involving a non-fatal injury occur between 6 pm and 6 am.

         Not surprisingly, the 2 highest incident months are January and February, followed by December and then March.

         While the time of day seems to remain a constant from year to year, there can be a skew from one month to another depending on snow conditions.

         Most snowmobile incidents occur on the weekend, when recreational snowmobiling participation is highest.

         The skew toward the weekend applies to both deaths and non-fatal injuries.

         More than half of snowmobiling injuries occur in the evening and at night

An alarming 8 out of 10 fatalities occur after dark.


What are some of the Contributing Factors to Snowmobile Incidents?



         Consumption of alcoholic beverages is a major factor contributing to many of the snowmobile injuries and fatalities.

         Compared to the operation of other motorized recreational vehicles, snowmobiling has the highest incidence of alcohol involvement.

         Older studies from 1988 -1992, report the percentage as high as 79%. Recent studies/reports indicate the percentage has come down to under 50%, but still remains higher than for boating, operating an ATV, or driving a car..

         By age group, the highest proportion of alcoholic beverage consumption by snowmobile operators is among 19 to 34 year old male young adults.

         By riding location, the OSSC/OFSC study reports alcohol consumption highest among drivers riding ice covered lakes and rivers followed by highways, followed by off-highway un-groomed trails, followed by trails.

         By time of day, there is a much higher alcohol involvement in the evening and at night, than compared to daytime incidents.


         Driving too fast for the prevailing driving conditions is a major factor contributing to many of the snowmobile incidents. In both the MTO (1988/89 to 1992/93), and the OSSC/OFSC (1988/89 and 1992/93) research years, excessive speed was involved in half (52%) of all deaths, and 32% to 42% of all injuries.

         Recent fatality reports continue to show, speed as a contributing factor in a high percentage of the incidents, for example, in 2000/01 excessive speed is reported as a factor in 18 of the 45 fatalities or 40% of the total.

         By age group, excessive speed is a problem with a significant portion of snowmobile drivers across all age groups.

         By sex, there is a higher proportion of excessive, speed involvement among male snowmobile operators, than for female operators,

         By time of day, excessive speed is typically involved in a higher proportion of incidents occur in the evening and at night



         Driving after dark is a key risk factor that is involved in half of all Ontario snowmobiling injuries.

         For-snowmobiling fatalities, the proportion of after dark and night incidents is even higher than for non fatal incidents. Over 72% for the years1988 to 1993, and 68% of the fatal incidents in 2000/01.

         Consuming alcoholic beverages and driving at excessive speeds are particularly risky in combination with snowmobiling after dark and greatly increase the potential for a snowmobiler to be injured or killed.


         Collisions with a range of environmental hazards are reported as a contributing factor to injury in almost 9 of every 10 snowmobile incidents. Note: these collisions are equally split between fixed and movable objects.

         The fixed objects most frequently collided with are trees, shrubs and stumps followed by snow banks and drifts.

         The moveable objects most frequently collided with are other motor vehicles, unattended vehicles, and pedestrians. A small number of collisions also involve railway trains and animals.


         Snowmobiling on lakes and rivers is proven dangerous.

         While the percentages have been decreasing slightly over time, there are still an alarming number of Ontario's snowmobiling injuries and fatalities occurring on ice covered lakes and rivers. The risk of dying in a snowmobiling incident on a lake and river is considerably higher than for other incident sites.

         Most snowmobile incidents on lakes and rivers occur after dark,


         Collisions are the dominant factor associated with making highways a high incident snowmobiling injury and fatality location.

         Highway incidents almost always involve collisions usually with other moving motor vehicles but also unattended vehicles, snow banks, trees, ditches and pedestrians.

         A surprisingly high percentage of highway snowmobile incidents occur on straight stretches of road.