About the Study Guide

You are looking at a preview of what’s in the Montana Snowmobile Ed Course. Feel free to look around, but you’ll need to register to begin progress toward getting your Snowmobile Safety Education Certificate.

Learn More Register for the Course

Video: Obeying Rules of the Road

Press the play button (▶) above to start the video. Trouble with this video?

Video Transcript

On screen: OBEYING RULES OF THE ROAD

Rob and Haley wave to two passing snowmobilers.

Rob

All righty. It looks like everybody is headed back to town now that it’s getting late. And with all this traffic, it kind of makes you wonder what the difference is between snowmobile trails and highways.

On screen: HIGHWAYS VS. TRAILS

Rob

Snowmobile trails don’t have centerlines. Snowmobile trails don’t have traffic lights. Snowmobile trails don’t have clear intersections.

Haley

That could sound like a recipe for disaster, especially considering that snowmobiles have the potential to go as fast as cars on the highway. With all that, you could be concerned.

Rob

And it’s OK to be concerned because it helps you focus on the rules of the road. Now with all the—what’s that?

Rob rushes out of the way as a snowmobiler speeds by.

Haley

Lucky we saw him.

Rob

Yep. That is the other trail hazard. Some people leaving common sense behind. Two common causes of snowmobile accidents are reckless behavior and operating beyond safe speeds. And that’s why we are actually going to use our brains and follow the rules of the road. First, we always travel on the right side of the trail. That allows room for oncoming traffic to pass, especially on curves. When we are riding in a group, we put the most experienced riders in the first and last positions. The leader can watch for hazards and control the group’s speed, and the person in the back acts as the co-pilot, or sweep, and makes sure that no one gets left behind. Restricted vision and hearing and all the machine noise really makes communication a problem. And that’s why everyone needs to know and use these hand signals.

On screen: HAND SIGNALS

Stop: The driver raises his left hand above his head, palm facing forward.

Slowing: The driver extends his left arm at shoulder level, palm facing the ground, and moves it between waist and shoulder height a few times.

Left turn: The driver extends his left arm at shoulder level, palm facing forward.

Right turn: Elbow bent, the driver raises his left hand to head level with the palm facing forward.

Oncoming sleds: The driver extends his left arm at shoulder height with his palm cupped upward. He bends his elbow to raise his hand to head level and back a few times.

Sleds following: Making a fist with the thumb up, the driver points over his shoulder a few times with his left hand.

Last sled in the line: Making a fist, the driver holds out his left hand at hip level.

Rob

You should also know common road signs, such as curves, steep hill, and trail intersection.

Rob and Haley pull up to a street crossing their trail. Rob signals for them to stop.

Rob

OK, this is our first road crossing. Now what could be a minor fender bender between two cars could be fatal between a car and a snowmobiler. So here’s a smart drill for all road crossings.

On screen: ROAD CROSSINGS

Rob

Choose a place to cross that you can see clearly in both directions. Stop your machine on the shoulder of the road, and get into a kneeling or standing position so that you can see better. When it’s clear in both directions, drive slowly, and go straight across. In a group, the leader crosses first, gets off their machine, and then directs the others across when it’s clear.

The group crosses the street safely. Now they are stopped in the middle of a snow-carpeted forest.

Haley

Isn’t this gorgeous?

The person behind the camera gestures that they would like to drive off the trail.

Haley

Oh yeah, that’s tempting, I have to admit, but why do you think we have to stay on the trail?

On screen: STAYING ON THE TRAIL

Haley

One: we don’t know who owns the land, and it’s wrong to trespass on private property. Two: we might damage seedlings or plants under the snow. Three: we could jeopardize trail access across leased lands. Four: we could disturb wildlife or livestock. And five: all of the above.

“All of the above” is highlighted on screen.

Haley

Good job. All those are the right reasons. And just because you see another set of tracks going someplace doesn’t mean it’s OK to follow. If you use common sense and the ethics in the Tread Lightly! program, you’ll keep yourself and snowmobiling out of trouble. Besides, I have an even better idea of where to ride. Let’s head to that place up here. Get some hot food and drink.

Rob

Although we know it’s tempting to drink alcohol after a long day on the trails, we all know that alcohol impairs reaction time and decreases attention span—both of which we need in order to keep ourselves and everyone else safe.

Haley

We also need to consider helmet hypnosis. Helmet hypnosis is when steady vibration in a warm, comfortable helmet causes your mind to go on autopilot, which can slow your reflexes.

Rob

But you can prevent it easy enough. Just avoid fatigue, dehydration, and alcohol. And if you feel helmet hypnosis coming on, stop and take a break.

Haley

And that’s good advice that might help us see you on the trail someday. So until then, think snowmobile safety. Because it’s smart.

Don’t Ride Alone

Snowmobilers relaxing on side of trail
  • Always ride with at least one other rider. Groups are safer than traveling alone.
  • Use the “buddy system,” and assign a partner to each rider. During the ride, the buddies should watch out for each other.
  • Plan your trip in advance, and tell a family member or friend.