Rock County begins snowmobile patrols
Snowmobile trail rules
-- If you're not on the trail, you are trespassing. That includes cutting corners.
-- Snowmobiles are not allowed on the road. The few exceptions include when the trail indicates travel on a road, when the trail crosses a road and when traveling on the road is necessary to avoid an obstruction, such as using a bridge to cross a river.
-- The speed limit is 55 mph from sunset to sunrise.
-- Snowmobiles operating next to a road must obey the speed limits and signs posted on the road.
JANESVILLE They don't have sirens.
But they've got plenty of lights and a fast sled.
On Jan. 25, the Rock County Sheriff's Office Recreational Safety Team began patrolling the county's 200-plus miles of snowmobile trails.
Snowmobile patrol is a new program for the sheriff's office. During that first weekend, the team issued more than twice as many warnings as citations, said Sgt. Ken Marquardt, recreational safety supervisor.
"We weren't out there trying to write tickets," Marquardt said.
The majority of the violations were for failing to register a snowmobile or obtain a trail pass, he said.
Many riders also weren't aware that they're not allowed to ride in the road.
The team was out again on Saturday for about eight hours and issued one citation and two warnings.
So how do you ticket somebody on a snowmobile?
The department uses a Yamaha Viking Professional Snowmobile furnished by Mike DuClos, owner of Rock River Power Sports in Jefferson. The business is donating the use of the sled.
"The snowmobile has blue lights on it, but a lot of time the riders can't see us in their mirrors," Marquardt said.
The deputy on the snowmobile tries to catch up with the rider. Or a member of the team working in a patrol car alerts the rider to stop when he or she reaches a point in the trail that's near the road.
Because of the number of fatalities on snowmobile trails, the state Department of Natural Resources has budgeted money for such safety teams, Marquardt explained.
The DNR covers "a significant portion" of the cost for the local patrol, including wages, according to a sheriff's office press release.
So far this winter, 16 people have died in snowmobiling accidents in Wisconsin. Speed and alcohol were factors in seven of those accidents. Speed was a factor in four others.