LEWIS COUNTY, N.Y. (WWTI) — The North Country has recently seen an alarming spike in snowmobile-related deaths, as riders flock to the Tug Hill region.

Since the beginning of 2022, there have been six fatal snowmobile accidents in the North Country, half of which have occurred in Lewis County within the past three weeks.

New York State Snowmobile Association Executive Director Dom Jacangelo sat down to discuss this recent increase. 

“Unfortunately when it snows and everybody goes out, there are times when accidents do occur. Most of those accidents are caused by excessive speed, and alcohol plays a significant role in fatalities, but speeding. is the number one, cause of most accidents,” Jacangelo shared.

“It makes me very sad when I hear about one of these fatalities and I think about the family that won’t have a loved one come home from their recreation. I think that’s the saddest part we’re supposed to be out there having fun,” he added.

In response, Jacanglo called on local law enforcement, including the Lewis County Sheriff’s Office to enforce all rules on the trails this winter.

He said that this spike in fatalities may cause riders to avoid the North Country this winter, especially families with younger children. Jacangelo said he has even advised friends to avoid the Tug Hill region on weekends due to these incidents.

“When you don’t see law enforcement, you tend to sometimes get a little carried away. It creates this sense of lawlessness on the trail, and that drives away the families who ride snowmobiles,” he said. “It’s those families that spend a lot of money bringing themselves, their spouses, their children up. I think it’s really important that they feel safe when they’re out on the trails.”

As a snowmobile safety course instructor himself, Jacangelo also encouraged riders to abide by the State snowmobiling speed limit of 55 miles per hour, as well as follow additional rules which are included below.

Snowmobiling safety tips:

  • Take a snowmobile safety course
  • Never ride alone
  • Equip sled with a tool kit and safety supplies, including extra clothing and a space blanket
  • Carry a spare belt
  • Bring drinking water
  • “Take it easy” during the first rides of the season
  • Register all snowmobiles

More information on snowmobile safety can be found on the New York State Snowmobile Association website.