Sheriff offers tips to stay safe on snowmobiles

      As people head out on their snowmobiles this winter, there are some tips that everyone should keep in mind.

      From September 2011 to March 2012, 16 people were killed in snowmobiling accidents, according to the Michigan Department of Natural Resources.

      As people head out on their snowmobiles this winter, there are some tips that everyone should keep in mind.

      â??This is the cause of many of the accidents we've seen where they're just going too fast, lose control and either flip their sled or lose control and hit a tree or another snowmobiler,â?? said Leelanau County Sheriff Mike Borkovich.

      According to the sheriff, speed and the influence of drugs and alcohol are the two leading causes of snowmobile crashes. His rule of thumb is driving 45 miles per hour during the day, and 25 miles per hour at night.

      Keeping warm while on the sled is also a main priority, along with bringing a cell phone, GPS or radio.

      â??Think about what you're going to do today; where you're going. Make a plan, let people know where you're going to go.â??

      If you're heading out on the ice, the sheriff recommends the ice be at least eight inches thick.

      â??If you do start cracking on the ice sometimes if you speed up it will help you through it. A lot of people on sleds have gone through bad ice and then it starts to sink and then they slow down to look and then they sink.â??

      While folks enjoy northern Michigan's fresh powder, they're keeping safety in mind.

      â??Make sure your sled is working good; headlight, tail light, brake light,â?? said snowmobiler Terry Carpenter. â??Keep an eye on the signs and everyone's really good about using hand signals when they got other traffic coming at them.â??

      The sheriff says snowmobiles are not allowed on state and federal highways and roads such as US 31 or M-72, for example.

      Where they are allowed snowmobiles should be driven on the far right-hand side of the road, in a single line, with the flow of traffic.

      The sheriff recommends anyone who wants to operate a sled to sign up for a snowmobile safety course.