LAKE PLACID - It's national Snowmobile Safety Week, and several fatal snowmobile accidents throughout the North Country and Champlain Valley are serving as stern reminders for snowmobile enthusiasts.
Last week, a Clinton County man was killed in an accident near St. Regis Falls. Then, on Jan. 9, three individuals died after the snowmobiles they were riding went through the ice on Lake Dunmore in Vermont.
And on Jan. 10, a Herkimer man was killed after he exited the trail and was ejected from his sled.
Carol Ash is commissioner of the state Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation. She called upon snowmobilers to exercise caution and avoid drinking alcohol before riding.
"Snowmobiles, unsafe speeds and alcohol have proven to be a deadly combination," Ash said. "Zero alcohol is the smart choice to make snowmobiling safer."
There's about 140,000 registered snowmobiles in New York, and Ash notes the vast majority of those operators practice safe riding. She adds that 24 out of the 83 snowmobile-related fatalities in the last five years were due to excessive speed and alcohol.
For Lake Placid Snowmobile Club President Jim McCulley, the easiest way to avoid problems on the trails is to treat the snowmobile like a motor vehicle.
"Snowmobiles are no different than a car," he said. "You must stay right. There's no protection if you get in an accident on a snowmobile. If you drive at a reasonable speed, pay attention to what's going on in front of you - those are the kinds of things snowmobilers have to do for safety. And, obviously, you don't go down a trail that you've never been down before at a high rate of speed. The bottom line is, is you have to be paying attention at all times; really, for everyone on the trail system, for their safety too."