Winter sports can be exhilarating, and Michigan is one of the top states in the
country for cold-weather fun such as snowmobiling. Unfortunately, snowmobiling
can also be dangerous and even deadly. According to the International Snowmobile
Manufacturers Association (ISMA), there are 1.3 million registered snowmobiles in
the United States. The modern snowmobile weighs more than six hundred pounds
and can travel upwards of ninety miles per hour, factors that contribute to the
severity of snowmobile accidents, which result in an estimated 14,000 injuries and
200 deaths each year.
Our attorneys at The Law Offices of Lee Steinberg are Michigan snowmobile
accident experts. We have represented snowmobile victims in many cases over the
years. If you or a loved one has been involved in a snowmobile accident, we will
fight to ensure you receive the compensation and benefits you deserve under the
Michigan Snowmobiling Dangers
Winter is here, and in Michigan, that means snow. In the southern half of the lower
peninsula of Michigan, average snowfalls range from 31 inches in Dearborn and 42
inches in Saginaw to nearly 60 inches in Ann Arbor and 94 inches in Grand Rapids.
Still, those snowfalls can’t compete with upper-peninsula neighbors like Houghton,
weighing in around 207 inches of snow per year. Not everyone is excited by the
possibility of snow-filled days, but snowmobile enthusiasts look forward to winter
with great anticipation, and with good reason. The Michigan Department of Natural
Resources notes that Michigan is one of only three states offering a large
interconnected system of snowmobile trails, with 6,200 miles of trails.
Unfortunately, this enthusiasm can turn tragic when snowmobile accidents occur. In
2014-15, there were 15 snowmobile deaths in Michigan. Already in 2016, there have
been multiple snowmobile deaths, alongside many injuries. The most common
reasons for snowmobile accidents are operator error or negligence, including
excessive speed or operating the ORV while under the influence of alcohol, as well as
unknown irregularities in terrain. Most fatal snowmobile accidents occur in the
nighttime (dark) hours and due to head or neck injuries, drowning, and
Snowmobiles are not highly regulated. They are required to be registered in most
states, but requirements for safety equipment/apparel or training for operators are
not widespread. Michigan does require registration of your snowmobile, as well as a
trail permit, and provides for numerous scenarios under which someone may not
operate an off-road vehicle (ORV). There are specificities for the braking system of
the machine, and drivers and riders must wear helmets. In addition, the machine
must have a lighted headlight and taillight at all times of operation.
Frequently listed safety practices include:
- Maintain the snowmobile in top condition
- Travel at a safe speed and be especially cautious at night
- Avoid alcohol and drugs before and when driving
- Know your skill level with the machine and understand your limits
- Wear appropriate gear including helmet and face shield or goggles and layers of water-repellant clothing
- Do not travel alone
- Carry a safety kit
- The motion of the snowmobile can cause fatigue—stay alert!
- Stay on marked trails
- Make sure to cross streets and roads carefully
Michigan Snowmobile-Related Restrictions
Unlike many other states, Michigan snowmobile regulations have some direct ties to
the operator’s primary driver’s license. First, if you license to drive an automobile
has been suspended or revoked by Michigan or your home state, you may not
operate a snowmobile. Second, convictions related to your operation of a
snowmobile can accrue points on your driver’s license, just as would a car accident.
- A person convicted of manslaughter, negligent homicide or a felony resulting
from snowmobile operation shall have six points assessed against his/her
- A person convicted of operating a snowmobile while under the influence of
alcohol or a controlled substance, or with an unlawful blood alcohol content
shall have six points assessed against his/her driver record.
- A person who is convicted of operating a snowmobile while visibly impaired
due to consumption of alcohol or a controlled substance shall have four
points assessed against his/her driver record.
Who is Liable in a Snowmobile Accident?
Snowmobile accidents are viewed similarly to car accidents and will largely utilize
theories of negligence. In order to prove negligence, it must be established that a
duty of care was due to one person from another, and that duty of care was not met.
Liability can be mitigated if another involved party was also negligent. Also, as with
cars, product liability may come into play if there is a defect with the machine that
causes an accident, injury, or death.
Contact Us Now About Your Snowmobile Accident
A snowmobile accident can leave you or your loved one in a fragile state. We
understand and can help take some of the weight off by providing the legal expertise
you need. Please call Lee Free and speak to our snowmobile accident attorneys at 1-
800-LEE-FREE (1-800-533-3733) or fill out the Free Case Evaluation Form. And
remember, you pay nothing until we settle your Michigan snowmobile accident case.