Police stress snowmobiling safety

Bryon Ackerman

As thousands of snowmobilers take advantage of the early season snow, the potential for accidents increases. 

A Clayville man died Tuesday in the area’s first fatal snowmobile accident of the 2007-2008 winter season. 

The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation is aware of at least three other fatal snowmobile accidents in the state so far during this recently started snowmobile season, said office spokesperson Sally Drake. 

In an effort to cut down the number of accidents, local law enforcement agencies have taken steps to monitor snowmobile trails, enforce violations and improve safety. 

“The faster the snowmobiles and the more snowmobiles there are, the more dangerous it is,” said Herkimer County Sheriff Chris Farber. 

Last year, upstate did not see significant snowfall until February, leaving snowmobilers on the sidelines. 

During big weekends and holidays, there can be thousands of snowmobiles on Oneida County trails, Undersheriff M. Peter Paravati said. 

A snowmobile patrol monitors hundreds of miles of trails in the county, Paravati said. 

“We’re quite busy when there’s snow,” he said. “However, with the increase in numbers, safety is a factor.” 

State Department of Environmental Conservation law enforcement members aid in monitoring local snowmobile trails, said Lt. Richard Henry, DEC Region 6 law enforcement. 

The DEC doesn’t increase the number of workers or focus on snowmobile trails

when snowstorms begin, Henry said. 

Local Accident

Evan Guardi, a 24-year-old Clayville resident, was riding his snowmobile Monday night when he hit an oncoming vehicle on Oneida Street in Paris, according to state police. 

Guardi died Tuesday from the resulting injuries, said state Trooper William Pouliot. 

Guardi was operating a snowmobile heading north on Oneida Street when he failed to keep right and entered the southbound lane, Pouliot said. 

He hit an oncoming car driven by Danica Inman, 22, of Clayville, Pouliot said. 

He was taken to St. Elizabeth Medical Center by Edwards Ambulance and later transferred to University Hospital in Syracuse, where he died around 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, Pouliot said. 

Inman and two passengers in her vehicle were transported to St. Luke's campus of Faxton-St. Luke's Healthcare, where they were treated for minor injuries and released, Pouliot said. 

The investigation is ongoing and Pouliot wouldn’t say if alcohol was a factor. 

Speed, Alcohol Add Danger

Farber said alcohol is a concern when it comes to snowmobiling. “Abuse of alcohol and snowmobiles — they just don’t mix,” he said. 

Paravati agreed. 

“In the accidents we investigate, two factors are very common, and those are speed and alcohol,” he said. 

Out of the eight snowmobile accidents Sheriff’s deputies investigated in 2006, none were fatalities, Paravati said. 

The official number of accidents so far this season isn’t yet available, according to local and state law enforcement officials.

Observer-Dispatch

SAFETY COURSE

ONEIDA — The Oneida City Police Department will sponsor a snowmobile safety course for youth ages 10 through 17. 

The classes will take place at from 5 to 9 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 12, and 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 13, in Oneida City Hall, 109 N. Main St. 

Attendance of both days is mandatory. 

Call 363-9111 to sign up for the class.

SAFETY TIPS

Don’t drive at excess speeds. 

Refrain from consuming alcohol. 

Watch trail conditions. 

Be courteous of other drivers and the trails. 

Make sure you can see the trail in front of you at night. 

Although headlights can alert you to oncoming snowmobiles at night, there is less notice during the day, so be on the lookout for approaching snowmobiles. 

Exercise caution when crossing roadways. 

Sources: Herkimer County Sheriff Chris Farber, Oneida County Undersheriff M. Peter Paravati and New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation spokesperson Sally Drake.