Snowmobile enthusiasts are encouraged to ride smart, obey the rules, and make sure someone knows their trip plan.

The Maine Snowmobile Association has issued its 'Snowmobile Maine' guide to safe riding, and is offering some tips on staying safe. Most of it is common sense, like never riding while drinking or drugging. Judgement is impaired, just like when getting behind the wheel, and the alcohol can slow down a rider's reaction time. It's better to save the alcoholic beverages for after the trip is done. In addition, riders should learn and use hand signals and practice defensive driving at all times.

Riders should always keep to the right of the trail and watch their speed, especially on corners and in any area where visibility is low. Maine doesn't have a speed limit on the trails, but riders are encouraged to operate at a reasonable, prudent speed. Maine Snowmobile Association Executive Director Bob Meyers says if the sled is sliding around corners, with a rooster tail of snow behind it, then the rider is not in control of their sled.

One important tip deals with trip itineraries. It's always a good idea for riders to let someone know their plans, including where they plan to ride, and when they expect to return. Even just leaving a note on the dashboard of their vehicle with a description of the planned journey can help searchers in the event that the rider gets lost. Valuable hours can be lost in a search when rescue workers don't know where to look and end up in the wrong area.

Finally, ice is something to be smart about. Riders should check with local snowmobile clubs to learn the ice conditions on any body of water, before venturing out. Never ride onto a body of water without knowing the thickness of the ice.

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