Mark Clairmont | MuskokaTODAY.com

ORILLIA — Alcohol was involved in almost half the 175 snowmobile fatalities in Ontario since 2009.

Provincial police say that with snowmobile safety week (Jan. 18-26) underway now, the OPP have released a 10-year data report on sledding fatalities that they hope will encourage snowmobilers to avoid the recurring “bad behaviours” that contributed to the majority of the incidents over the past decade.

They say that during the past 10 snowmobile seasons (2009-2019), the OPP has investigated 175 snowmobile fatalities throughout the province.

Among its findings in the report, they say excessive speed, loss of control, driving too fast for the conditions and ability impaired by alcohol were listed as the top contributing factors.

In fact, alcohol was involved in almost half (45 per cent) of the deaths.

And another compelling fact is that almost half (45 per cent) of the snowmobilers who died were traveling on frozen lakes or rivers at the time of the incident.

They add that the circumstances that led to the overall deaths include intentionally driving onto open water (puddle jumping/water skipping), breaking through the ice and collisions with other snowmobiles and natural landmarks.

“Whether you are a beginner or seasoned snowmobiler, it is important to avoid all manner of risk while enjoying the thousands of kilometres of diverse, scenic snowmobile trails Ontario has to offer. Maintaining control of your snowmobile at all times and never making alcohol or drugs part of your ride will go a long way to keeping snowmobilers and their passengers safe this season,” said MPP Vijay Thanigasalam, Parliamentary Assistant to the Minister of Transportation.

“Our OFSC Interactive Trail Guide is an excellent tool for keeping snowmobilers well-informed about the status of trails throughout Ontario. The OFSC, in partnership with the OPP is counting on all snowmobilers to take full responsibility for their own safety as well as the safety of their passengers and fellow riders this season,” added Andrew Walasek, of the Ontario Federation of Snowmobile Clubs.

The OPP is also reminding operators that no ice is safe ice; and all riders should ensure they use proper safety equipment in addition to wearing appropriate outerwear for the environmental conditions they may encounter.

Snowmobile Safety Week runs from January 18 to 26, 2020.

A provincial police study shows more than 70 snowmobile deaths the past 10 winters in Ontario involved alchohol.