A spate of Maine snowmobile injuries – and two crashes resulting in deaths – have prompted the state warden service to issue a formal warning urging caution, adherence to safety practices and a plea to slow down.
According to the Bangor Daily News, at least eight serious snowmobile crashes occurred in a single weekend, resulting in numerous injuries – including those sustained by an 8-year-old boy.
Primarily, authorities say, these crashes involved either inexperienced drivers or drivers who were traveling at excessive speeds. The crash involving the 8-year-old boy occurred while his grandfather was driving the vehicle. In Athens, a 15-year-old boy suffered a head injury when he was thrown from a snowmobile driven by a friend. Several others suffered broken legs or other fractures.
The first of those fatal crashes occurred in Oxford County, when a rider struck a parked snow plow. The other, in the same county, occurred when a rider was fleeing police and lost control of the vehicle, skidding off the paved road and into a snowbank. It is suspected by police in the latter case that the driver may have been intoxicated.
Of course, operating any motor vehicle while intoxicated increases the risk of a crash and possible fatality. But conditions for snowmobiles in Maine may be especially dangerous right now, officials say, due to the drastic fluctuation in temperatures recently. For this reason, many of the trails that riders typically frequent are especially icy.
Plus, with lakes and streams thawing and freezing in fast succession, there may be patches of ice that are not thoroughly frozen, increasing the risk of riders falling through the ice.
Authorities report in some of the incidents in which riders were traveling at night, they were overdriving their headlights. In other words, they were traveling too fast for the distance their headlights allowed them to see. At night especially, snowmobile operators must slow down.
Establishing negligence in these cases is going to depend on several factors. If an individual injures or kills someone else while operating a snowmobile under the influence, the liability there is fairly straightforward.
Another key question to ask was weather the driver/operator was traveling safely with regard to the conditions. For example, if visibility was reduced by snow, sun glare or darkness, the driver would have a duty to reduce his or her speed, ensure that the lighting on the vehicle was properly working and, if appropriate, wear goggles or a visor.
There could also be possible negligence established if the driver of the snowmobile was fatigued. While increased operating range and reliability of snowmobiles have made it possible for drivers to ride for hours, that doesn’t necessarily mean they should. The cumulative effect of hours in the cold, the physical toll of actual operation and failure to take breaks could result in impaired judgment and slowed reaction time that would make a rider more vulnerable to a crash.
Each snowmobile negligence or liability case is going to be different. The primary takeaway is that if you are injured in a snowmobile accident, you may be entitled to compensation. In order to explore your options, it’s important that you meet as soon as possible after the crash with an experienced Maine injury attorney.
Contact Peter Thompson & Associates at 1-800-804-2004 or read more on our website.
Several snowmobile crashes prompt warning from Maine Warden, Feb. 9, 2014, By Matt Shinberg, WMTW