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Snowmobiles most dangerous winter activity

National study finds snowmobiles account for 41 per cent of winter recreation injuries



A general study of winter recreation injuries by the Canadian Institute for Health Information found that snowmobiles accounted for a large number of accidents treated in trauma units in the 2003-04 winter, outnumbering snowboarding, skiing, hockey and other winter activities.

The study was based entirely on hospital data, and did not take into consideration the number of people involved in each sport or the circumstances surrounding specific injuries.

Still, according to the report, snowmobile crashes, rollovers or plunges into lakes and rivers accounted for 41 per cent of winter recreational injuries reported in specialized trauma units across Canada. Snowboarding and skiing were second at 20 per cent, while hockey accounted for nine per cent, tobogganing for seven per cent, and ice skating for three per cent.

The study also found that:

• People under 20 were most likely to be injured snowmobiling, suffering multiple injuries and often requiring mechanical help to breathe;

• 49 per cent of those severely injured while snowmobiling were drinking alcohol before the crash;

• 80 per cent of those injured were men;

• Drivers were more likely to be severely hurt than passengers, who were usually thrown from vehicles upon impact and suffered head or orthopedic injuries;

• Drivers tended to have leg or spine injuries;

• February was the most dangerous month, followed by January and March.

Some 25 people were killed in the 2003-04 season, out of a total of 1,728 reported incidents. That number doesn’t include people who died at the scene, and did not require trauma care.

It also doesn’t include numbers from Quebec and Saskatchewan, two popular snowmobiling locales, as the statistics were not available to researchers.