DNR conducts snowmobile patrols as deaths rise

Mark Hicks
The Detroit News
The Department of Natural Resources are stepping up patrols and reinforcing snowmobile safety after a rash of snowmobile deaths this winter, the DNR says.

As snowmobiling deaths rise across the state, Michigan Department of Natural Resources conservation officers are partnering with a snowmobile association and others for a "Ride Right" campaign. 

Five snowmobilers died Friday, according to the department. The DNR has been partnering with the Michigan Snowmobile Association and others on the “Ride Right” safety campaign this winter. The department started weekend patrols Jan. 11 along the state-managed trail system in Houghton County and on Jan. 12 in Ontonagon County.

The patrols continued on both ends of the U.P. last week, when police in the Upper Peninsula and northern Lower Peninsula investigated the deaths Friday of two snowmobilers in Gogebic County and one each in Luce, Alger and Kalkaska counties.

Conservation officers helped respond to the Luce County incident, in which a 71-year-old rider struck a tree, the DNR said.

So far this winter, six snowmobilers have died in the U.P. and three in the Lower Peninsula, according to the department. For the 2017-18 winter season, the statewide snowmobile fatality total was 15, including 10 north of the Mackinac Bridge, officials reported.

“This recent rash of deadly crashes illustrates the critical importance of snowmobile safety,” said Lt. Ryan Aho, a DNR district law supervisor in Marquette. “Many fatalities occur because of drinking and driving, high speed or carelessness, all of which are preventable actions.”

Theofficers will reinforce snowmobile safety, enforce rules and look for violators and remove operators who are drinking and driving from trails.

The efforts are slated to continue throughout winter.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.