Snowmachine fatality reminds Alaskans of recreational vehicle risks

Vehicles such as snowmachines and ATVs are a preferred and almost essential means of getting around in many parts of Alaska. Unfortunately, when the people operating these vehicles make mistakes or something else goes wrong, the resulting accidents can have severe consequences. People in Southcentral Alaska were recently reminded of this when a man died in a snowmachine crash in Dec. 2013.

The man was riding a snowmachine at high speed on Big Lake ice road, according to CBS Seattle. He drove over a snow berm, causing him to lose control of the snowmachine, which started rolling. The man was wearing a helmet but not a seatbelt, and he was pronounced dead at the scene.

Recreational injuries and accidents in Alaska

Sadly, incidents like these are not isolated, since Alaska does not mandate helmet usage and most recreational vehicles do not even have seatbelts. In 2011, the Arctic Sounder reported that, although Alaska had an average statewide rate of hospitalization for brain injuries - 92 per 100,000 people - the statistics for individual regions were less benign. The Northwest had a rate of 411, while three other regions had rates over 150.

The Alaska Department of Safety, meanwhile, reports that, in one two-year period, ATV accidents caused 20 deaths. Ten of those fatalities resulted directly from impacts to the head. During the same period, more than 500 people were injured in ATV accidents, with 6 of those victims becoming permanently disabled.

These recreational accidents can truly affect anyone, from natives people in rural communities using the vehicles for transportation purposes to visitors who are looking to have fun and trust their safety to the expertise of a guide. Considering this, most people living in Alaska or visiting the state can benefit from a refresher course on ATV and snowmachine safety tips.

Advice for safe recreational vehicle use

The Department of Public Safety recommends that recreational vehicle riders take a number of precautions to ensure their safety, including:

  • Wearing helmets as well as appropriate protective clothing, such as goggles, gloves and warm layers.
  • Being aware of natural or manmade hazards such as waterways, berms, railroad tracks and fences.
  • Driving at reasonable speeds and taking precautions during low-visibility conditions, such as nighttime.
  • Avoiding riding on roadways and being extremely careful when highway or bridge crossings are necessary.
  • Always riding sober and being alert to other riders.

Of course, recreational vehicle accidents can have devastating effects on drivers, but they can also affect passengers, people on other vehicles, or even bystanders, especially when factors like reckless driving or intoxication come into play. Recreational vehicle riders should constantly keep their own safety and that of others in mind before making any risky decisions.

Unfortunately, recreational vehicle accidents are unlikely to stop entirely, and they can have serious lingering consequences. Anyone who has been hurt in a recreational vehicle accident and believes that another person was at fault should consider speaking with an attorney about pursuing compensation for their harms and losses resulting from the accident.