Maine Snowmobile Accidents on the Rise, Authorities Say

A recent spate of Maine snowmobile accidents have safety officials concerned. 

One tragic example was seen recently in Parlin Pond Township, where NBC-6 in Portland reports a 45-year-old Massachusetts woman was killed after running into a line of trees. At the time, she was leading a group of snowmobilers across an icy pond when she drifted to the left side and into the trees. Witnesses said she was thrown off the sled and landed head-first on the trail. Those who had been following her rushed to her aid and first responders arrived in minutes. Sadly, her injuries proved too severe and she was pronounced dead at the scene. She had been wearing a helmet, but authorities say speed may have been a factor.

That crash was one of several that happened just the first weekend of this month. Maine Game Wardens say there are a number of factors at play, including worsening trail conditions. Melting snowpack has led to exposed stumps, rocks and ice that can be treacherous for snowmobilers. That incident was the ninth death of a snowmobiler this season, the Game Wardens say. 

Aside from the exposed hazards, part of the surge in crashes has to do with a rising interest in the activity, given this especially cold and snowy winter. The state has dozens of popular trails, which are closely monitored, and conditions are regularly updated by the Maine Snowmobile Association.

In all of last winter, the association said registrations had reached 64,000 by February of this year – which was 5,000 more than the total at the end of the season last year. It should be noted that this figure is the highest of any among the six states in New England.

The Warden service reports so far this winter that it has responded to 85 personal injury snowmobile accidents this winter, and there are still a few weeks yet to go of the season.

The MSA is urging its members to be cautious, noting operators have to be responsible. That means slowing down, watching where you are riding, riding sober and paying attention. Moving fast on a snowmobile might be thrilling, but the risk is you don’t give yourself enough time to react if there is a serious hazard.

The all-time seasonal record for snowmobile accident deaths in Maine happened during the 2002-2003 season, when 16 people were killed. At that time, there were about 100,000 registered snowmobiles in the state, which is roughly 30,000 more than we have now.

Snowmobiles are dangerous. One study published by the journal for Clinical Orthopaedics and Related Research, reported that snowmobile injury and fatality rates are higher than for motor vehicles. Snowmobile accidents cause about 14,000 injuries and 200 deaths annually nationwide.

When it comes to liability, our snowmobile injury attorneys know that is really going to depend on the circumstances of each incident. In general, claimants in these cases will have to prove negligence. A snowmobiler who was personally negligent and caused their own injury may have a difficult time recovering compensation. However, in cases where a snowmobiler is injured by someone else’s negligence – such as an operator who was impaired or a land owner who failed to warn of a dangerous condition – there might be the option to file suit. In some cases, there could be a valid claim against the manufacturer of the snowmobile if it somehow malfunctioned. There might also be a claim if another vehicle owner or driver is wholly or partially to blame.

Because snowmobile accidents can result in very serious injuries, it’s always a good idea to consult with an attorney to review your legal options.

If you are the victim of a Bangor car accident, contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 for a confidential consultation to discuss your rights.

Additional Resources:

Snowmobile accidents, deaths up in Maine this year, March 6, 2017, Associated Press

More Blog Entries:

Maine Snowmobile Injuries Mount; Feds Issue New Rule at National Parks, Feb. 22, 2015, Portland Snowmobile Accident Lawyer Blog

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