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How can you protect yourself on a snowmobile?

Last week, we talked about some common injuries airplane passengers might experience. This week, we're taking a look at injuries that occur on or around snowmobiles and how you might avoid them. For most residents of Pennsylvania, a few weeks of warm weather will linger before the cool days of fall. With weeks or even months before the first snow falls, you have time to prepare snow equipment and vehicles and brush up on safety practices.

Accidents that might occur with snowmobiles include crashes, overturns and running over a body part. Inexperienced operators could misuse the machinery, and riders can fall off of the vehicle while it is moving. You could also flip or roll the vehicle, especially when using it on an unmarked area or off of a specific trail.

The Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources provides some tips for safely caring for and operating snowmobiles. The department advises all riders to wear proper safety equipment, including a helmet and goggles. Individuals should never operate a snowmobile while under the influence of any substance and should always obey any traffic or other laws related to operation.

As with driving a car on the road, always maintain a safe distance between yourself and other vehicles or snowmobiles. It can be difficult to come to a quick stop when driving a snowmobile, because you are operating in slick and icy conditions. Similarly, you should always maintain a proper speed and use common sense when operating a snowmobile.

Finally, it's a good idea to ride with others or to let someone know when and where you are riding and when they should expect you back. If someone knows that you are riding and were supposed to be back at a certain time, they will know something might have happened to you if you don't show up after a while.

These safety tips can help you protect yourself this winter. Because accidents do happen -- and you can't always ensure everyone around you will act in a safe manner -- you should also understand your legal rights when it comes to snowmobile accidents. Individuals in such accidents have the same rights as car accident victims, so they can seek compensation for damages and injuries if another party was at fault or liable.

Source: Pennsylvania Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, "Safety and Training," accessed Aug. 28, 2015

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