As the snowmobiling season gets underway, the Maine Warden Service is reminding riders that excessive speed and drinking contribute to the majority of serious snowmobile crashes.
"It doesn't seem as though we can escape a riding season without a fatality - and usually they're avoidable," says the Warden Service's Cpl. John MacDonald.
MacDonald says each winter Maine sees about five or six preventable fatalities caused by unsafe speed, intoxication, crashing through lake ice, or riding in unsafe terrain.
And he says a surprising number of people don't share their trip plans with loved ones. MacDonald says every winter, the wardens must search for riders who have failed to come home - and they often have no idea where to start looking.
"It's excruciatingly difficult to deal with," he says. "Just give someone an idea of what your plan is going to be like."
Snowmobilers say weather-wise, the season hasn't been ideal.
"It's been interesting so far, we had a lot of snow when we really didn't want it. And now the snow's kind of gone away when we do need it," MacDonald says.
And conditions haven't been exactly ideal either, says Bob Meyers, executive director of the Maine Snowmobiling Association. A big dump of snow on top of muddy ground in November created mushy trail conditions and interfered with grooming efforts.
Since then, the mercury has been up and down, but Meyers says there's been enough deep cold in northern and western Maine to firm things up. "It's nice that things are freezing up, particularly on the lakes and ponds, which will help with things quite a bit."
But the Maine Snowmobiling Association and the Maine Warden Service are reminding riders to test ice they plan to ride across.
Other rules include sticking to marked trails, avoiding alcohol, riding only on the right, and traveling at a responsible speed.
Originally published Dec. 27, 2018 at 2:33 p.m. ET.