Editor’s note: When Global News spoke with an OPP representative to ask for information about crashes during the 2020-2021 snowmobile season, the spokesperson provided statistics indicating there was a 141-per-cent increase in collisions. However, the representative provided further information after the publication of this story to say the statistics provided were incorrect. As of early February, there was a nine-per-cent decline in crashes with injuries compared to the overall total in 2019-2020.
With a little half of the winter season now gone, Ontario Provincial Police are once again urging the public to take caution amid recent incidents in which snowmobilers have been injured.
“The weather has played a huge role in this so far this season. The ice conditions have just been so changeable and so unpredictable that it’s made for some very hazardous conditions this year,” OPP spokesperson Bill Dickson told Global News Tuesday afternoon.
“Unless you absolutely know that the ice you’re about to go riding on is safe, don’t do it. Don’t take the chance.
“It’s not worth taking your life in your own hands to go out on a ride on a trail you’re not familiar with.”
The most recent incidents in Ontario reported by OPP involved a single-rider crash on the Bay of Quinte in Quinte West early Sunday that left a man with serious, but non-life-threatening injuries.
In Oro-Medonte Friday evening, a snowmobiler went through the ice on Lake Simcoe. He had to be rescued from the water and was flown to a Toronto trauma centre in life-threatening condition.
During a weekend in mid-January, three people died in two separate incidents near Midland.
Despite the recent incidents, Dickson said personal injury collisions are down so far in 2020-2021 by nine per cent. According to statistics provided by the OPP, 58 people have been injured so far this season in OPP-patrolled jurisdictions. For the entire 2019-2020 snowmobile season, there were 134 crashes with injuries reported.
Of the 58 collisions in the 2020-2021 snowmobile season, 11 have been fatal. The OPP reported nine crashes happened on waterways and three of the crashes were fatal.
As for the injuries involved, Dickson said it can be wide-ranging and varies from broken limbs up to more critical trauma.
A recent Statistics Canada report, 73 snowmobile-related deaths happen on average across Canada annually. Looking at crashes between 2013 and 2019, the report said 49 per cent of collisions happened after the vehicle hit a stationary object. Submersion and ejection were each responsible for 14 per cent of crashes.
Dickson said it’s still too early to get into a detailed breakdown of the circumstances involved in the season’s collisions. However, he noted there have been anecdotal reports of more riders on trails this season. Dickson added some people who are newer to riding snowmobiles are “overriding” the machines and are speeding.