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Snowmobile conditions call for caution

We love snowmobiles. They’re zippy, they’re fun — heck, with our northern Michigan winters, they’re even practical.

Also, don’t get us started about the wonders of hand-warmers or we’ll never shut up.

But a number of recent smashups show the inherent dangers in our beloved past-time.

Last Tuesday, a 42-year-old man was killed after his snowmobile struck a tree.

On Saturday, a 24-year-old man died crossing Crystal Township’s Duck Lake when he drove the sled into an island.

And close to home, a 4-snowmobile chain-reaction crash in Kalkaska County on Saturday sent three people to the hospital.

The reports use official language like “speed is possibly a factor” and “didn’t negotiate a curve” but it all adds up to things happening quickly on ice — bad things doubly so.

This winter’s freeze-thaw cycle is at a constant blip, and sporadic fluffy blankets of snow cover up potentially treacherous conditions — even for those who know the lay of the land.

More official speak — “alcohol is being investigated as a factor.”

Drinking and driving on a snowmobile is extremely dangerous, and the penalties are severe.

Two snowmobilers were arrested Feb. 2 near Gaylord on suspicion of operating while intoxicated, or OWI, after one of the sled’s skis got lodged under a railroad track.

That’s just the goings-ons in recent days.

Michigan’s fatality total is up to seven people this season.

The year before, 18 people died on snowmobiles.

We love our snowmobiles, but enjoying our past-time safely calls for an abundance of caution.

— Traverse City Record Eagle

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