Boozing and cruising: the deadly mix

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EAU CLAIRE, Wis. (WEAU) -- Two more snowmobilers died over the weekend in Wisconsin. And now, more than ever, safety is a concern among snowmobilers, as well as the DNR.

DNR says speed, alcohol, and night time operation are the leading causes in snowmobile deaths. Last year the state had six snowmobile related deaths, but the numbers are on the rise once again.
18 people have died in snowmobile-related accidents this year, and the season is not even over yet.

Rollin Nelson of Eau Claire has been safely riding snowmobiles for more than 30 years.

“What I love about snowmobiling-it is a rush; the speed is a lot of fun. It’s like riding a roller-coaster if you will,” said Nelson.

A roller-coaster that four years ago was limited to 55 miles per hour, which, the DNR says, helped bring fatality rates down.

“There is a 55 mile speed limit now, and even with that, it's very difficult to see in time to spot and avoid an object like open water or something unexpected in the trail,” said DNR Recreational Safety Warden, William Yearman.

“I've had some close calls, coming on corners in the day time, meeting snowmobiles ski to ski; and it's scary!” said Nelson.

"People make the same mistakes: it's driving too fast, and if you mix alcohol in the combination, it can make for a deadly combination,” said Yearman.

And alcohol, Nelson says, is a big part of riding the snowmobiles.

“These trails go from bar, to bar, to bar. You have to know your limits. You can't be drinking 18 beers and be riding the snowmobile, thinking that you're superman; and that happens, it happens a lot,” said Yearman.

Nelson says, snowmobilers are generally pretty aware of the dangers, but there is just too much excitement built up by the time the riding season comes around.

“You spend a lot of money on these (snowmobiles), and you only get to use them a couple of times in a year,” said Nelson.

“If you're a little rusty from not being on a snowmobile for a while, or anything else, understand that, and drive within your ability. Always,” said Yearman.

Yearman says they want people to have fun and enjoy their investment and the snow. But remember that a snowmobile is a recreational vehicle and not a toy.

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