Under 16 too young for snowmobiles, doctors say

Pediatric doctors want new snowmobile regulations preventing anyone under 16 from operating the machines.
Doctors want under-16 youths banned from operating snow machines, Adam Hunter reports. 1:56

Pediatric doctors want new snowmobile regulations preventing anyone under 16 from operating the machines.

Saskatchewan's rule says youngsters aged 12 to 16 may drive a snowmobile, so long as they have passed a safety course and ride with an adult who is a qualified driver.

The adult can be on the same machine, or supervising the young rider from another snowmobile.

Peter Huebner, the chief instructor for the Saskatchewan Safety Council's snowmobile safety programs, says training is key.

"The younger you start doing things in a safe way the more likely you are to continue as you get older," Huebner said, noting that over 500 people have taken the safety course in the last year.

A study, released Tuesday by Canadian pediatricians, recommends that no one under the age of 16 be allowed to operate a snowmobile, claiming there is little evidence to suggest certification courses improve safety.

"Also, many children and adolescents do not have the required strength and skills to operate a snowmobile safely," the report said.

Saskatoon doctor Susanna Martin, who is on the board of the Canadian Pediatric Society, said there are a wide range of safety issues involving children that should be addressed.

"We are among the few [provinces] that do not have child safety legislation," Martin said. "I think that's where we are failing."

Huebner says youngsters riding with an experienced operator are more likely to learn proper techniques and become safe operators when they are completely on their own.

"If they're riding with a mother, father, brother, sister aunt they're probably safer at that stage then they are at 16, then they would be on their own," he said.

The pediatric society's report also calls for a mandatory bicycle helmet law and legislation on booster seats.