Snowmobiling While Intoxicated (SWI) is a Serious Crime That Puts the Public at Risk
The New York State Office of Parks, Recreation and Historic Preservation (OPRHP), Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC), and New York State Police would like to remind snowmobilers to never drink and drive, and to ride responsibly while enjoying the state’s abundant snowmobile trails.
“Alcohol use and imprudent speed are the most common factors behind snowmobile crashes,” State Parks Acting Commissioner Erik Kulleseid said. “We urge snowmobilers to avoid alcohol, drive within your abilities, within speed limits, and to reduce speeds during inclement or nighttime operation. Knowing and following safety recommendations will help ensure that you and your friends and family will have a great time on the trail.”
“New York State has some of the most spectacular snowmobiling opportunities in the nation. But a great day on the trails can turn deadly with just one bad choice,” Department of Environmental Conservation (DEC) Commissioner Basil Seggos said. “We are urging our snowmobile enthusiasts to never drink alcohol when traveling the trails. Save a life, and save the drinks for the end of the day.”
“We want snowmobile enthusiasts to take advantage of the beautiful trails in our great State of New York, but we want them to do so safely,” said Acting State Police Superintendent Keith M. Corlett. “There is no excuse for operating any motorized vehicle or device while impaired whether it be a vehicle, snowmobile, boat or ATV. By making responsible and common sense choices, New Yorkers can do their part to keep our trails safe and enjoyable for all.”
In New York, a snowmobile driver can be charged with Snowmobiling While Intoxicated (SWI) if he or she operates a vehicle under the influence of alcohol. Any snowmobile driver with a Blood Alcohol Content (BAC) of 0.08 percent or higher can be charged with an SWI, the snowmobile equivalent of a Driving While Intoxicated (DWI) offense. A misdemeanor conviction can result in a permanent criminal record, a maximum fine of $1500, up to 90 days in jail, and a 12-month suspension of snowmobiling privileges. Intoxication can be proven through different types of evidence including BAC chemical tests (breath, blood, or urine), law enforcement’s observations, and other factors. An SWI charge is upgraded to a felony when there are two prior convictions.
Also, a snowmobile driver can be charged with Snowmobiling While Ability Impaired (SWAI). The penalty for a SWAI conviction can include a fine up to $350, jail time up to 15 days, and a suspension of snowmobile privileges for six months. A second type of SWAI charge involves driving a snowmobile while under the influence of drugs. Similar to a DWAI-Drugs, the SWAI-Drugs charge is a misdemeanor offense that can be brought against any snowmobiler who operates the vehicle while on drugs. If convicted, an SWAI-Drugs charge can bring harsh penalties, including a fine up to $500, jail time up to 90 days, and a one-year suspension of your snowmobile registration and privileges.
Everyone operating a snowmobile should be familiar with safe riding practices and all applicable laws, rules and regulations. The best way to learn is by taking a snowmobile safety course. To find a course, visit the Parks website. Before deciding to head out, riders are also reminded to check trail conditions with local snowmobile clubs. To find a club, visit the New York State Snowmobile Association (NYSSA) website.
Top safety recommendations include:
- Be aware that fluctuating weather late in the season can quickly result in unsafe conditions – including blow downs, low hanging branches, water hazards, ice, washouts and exposed hazards due to minimal snow coverage.
- Check over your snowmobile; make sure it is in good working order and carry emergency supplies.
- Always wear a helmet and make sure you wear the proper snowmobile-riding gear including bibs, jackets, boots and gloves.
- Always ride with a buddy or at least one other person.
- Ride responsibly. Ride within your ability, ride to the right and operate at a safe and prudent speed at all times. Respect landowners, obey posted signs and stay on the marked trail.
- Frozen bodies of water are not designated trails; if you plan to ride on ice, proceed with caution and be aware of potential hazards under the snow as well as ice thickness.
- Four inches of ice is usually safe for accessing ice on foot. Double that thickness for traveling on white ice. Ice thickness can vary on every body of water or even within the same body of water. The presence of snowmobile tracks or footprints on the ice should not be considered evidence of safe ice conditions. Individuals are strongly encouraged to check ice conditions and avoid situations that appear to present even a remote risk. Testing the thickness of ice can be done with an auger or ice spud at various spots.
- Never drink alcohol or use drugs and ride.
State Park and DEC Police will continue patrolling and issuing tickets for snowmobiling violations – including snowmobiling while intoxicated, imprudent speed, reckless operation and driving unregistered snowmobiles.
OPRHP oversees the development, maintenance and oversight of a statewide snowmobile program, which features approximately 10,400 miles of state-designated snowmobile trails. For more information on snowmobiling in New York, visit the Parks website.