Alcohol or drugs factored into more than half of Canada's snowmobile fatalities from 2013-19

Alcohol or drugs were a factor in more than half of all snowmobile fatalities from 2013-19, according to a Statistics Canada report.

Statistics Canada says an average of 73 people died each year in that timeframe

Nine out of 10 snowmobile fatalities were men. (John Last/CBC)

Alcohol or drugs were a factor in more than half of all snowmobile fatalities from 2013-19, according to a Statistics Canada report.

The report said an average of 73 died every year in Canada in that timeframe while riding on a snowmobile, and the numbers were likely higher due to incomplete data.

The results were released on Friday from the Canadian Vital Statistics – Death Database (CVSD) and the Canadian Coroner and Medical Examiner Database (CCMED).

From 2013 to 2019 the top factors in snowmobile fatalities were:

  • Alcohol or drug use (55 per cent);
  • Excessive speed (48 per cent).
  • Riding in the evening or at night when visibility from dusk or darkness may have been an issue (46 per cent).

"In half (52 per cent) of these types of events, more than one of these specific risk factors was present," the report said.

Most deaths in single-vehicle incidents involved snowmobiles hitting a stationary object. (Erik White/CBC )

Alcohol or drugs were also reported in half of submersion deaths and 44 per cent of multi-vehicle collisions. 

"Evening/night riding was more commonly reported in submersion fatalities, while multi-vehicle collision deaths more often occurred during the day," said the report.

At the time the report was written, there were 510 snowmobiling fatalities documented in the CVSD and CCMED from 2013-19. 

About 80 per cent of snowmobile fatalities were single-vehicle events, while the other 20 per cent involved a collision with another snowmobile or vehicle.

Of the single-vehicle incidents, most [70 per cent] involved the snowmobile colliding with a stationary object, an ejection or a rollover.

Other causes included submersion (14 per cent) and avalanche-related (10 per cent) fatalities. 

The report said men accounted for nine in 10 of those fatalities.

Excessive speed was a factor in almost half of snowmobile fatalities. (Elizabeth Fraser/CBC)

More than 1 in 10 people who died were not wearing a helmet.

The CVSD and CCMED recommend to:

  • Not ride while impaired. 
  • Travel at safe speed. 
  • Wear a helmet. 
  • Wear warm clothing. 
  • Carry safety equipment.
  • Travel in a group.
  • Avoid snowmobiling on ice or where there is a risk of avalanche.

Not all provincial data was complete.

For example data for Saskatchewan was only available from 2013 to 2014.

Statistics Canada says most people who died in snowmobile accidents are male. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol is one of the common risk factors. (Statistics Canada)


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