The combination of alcohol and snowmobiling has proven deadly this winter in Wisconsin. There have been 14 deaths on snowmobiles so far this season, and Department of Natural Resources Conservation Warden and Snowmobile Safety Administrator Gary Eddy said Friday that 11 of those deaths have involved alcohol.
“We need our senses on high alert, and anytime you throw any level of alcohol in there, our reaction time certainly reduces quite a bit,” Eddy said. The latest alcohol-related deaths were two Madeline Island men who strayed off a marked ice road across Lake Superior after leaving Bayfield Wednesday night. The machine they were riding went through the ice. Their bodies were recovered Thursday.
Eddy is hoping for a concerted effort to end the season a safe note. “We have a quite a bit of snowmobile opportunity left yet this winter, and with temperatures holding steady and snow in the forecast, we’re worried that we’ll see a continued rise in the fatalities,” he said. “Statistically through the years, the main three factors that always rise to the top of our snowmobile fatalities are speed, alcohol and nighttime operation.”
There were 10 snowmobile fatalities for all of the 2011-12 season, which was nearly non-existent in a large part of the state area due to a lack of snow, Eddy noted. Portions of the state received more snow Friday, as stormed moved into the Midwest for the weekend and the coming week.