Thursday, February 11, 2016

In this file photo the Erikson family enjoys a day of snowmobiling at Eby's Pines in Bristol. Many enthusiasts have taken advantage of recent snowfall, but it's important to know the Indiana laws that apply to the use of snowmobiles. (Miriam Nowak)
Drinking while snowmobiling is becoming a problem in Elkhart County

Posted on Jan. 28, 2014 at 9:07 p.m.

ELKHART — Recent snowfall has made Elkhart County a great place for snowmobile enthusiasts, but some seem to have forgotten the laws and regulations applying to the winter vehicles.

The Elkhart County Sheriff's Department arrested Shawn West, 26, of Elkhart on Saturday, Jan. 25 on preliminary charges of operating a vehicle while intoxicated and resisting law enforcement after an officer found him driving his snowmobile on the roadway at the intersection of C.R. 4 and C.R. 9. West fled from the officer and was apprehended at C.R. 4 and C.R. 11, where he was found to be intoxicated and arrested, according to a sheriff's department report.

On Monday evening, Jan. 27, Jeffrey Wright, 47, of Edwardsburg was arrested on a preliminary charge of operating a vehicle while intoxicated after he crashed his snowmobile in the area of Shore Drive and Dear Run Trail, according to the sheriff's department.

Capt. Jim Bradberry of the Elkhart County Sheriff's Department said laws against operating a vehicle while intoxicated apply to "any conveyance," not just cars. This includes snowmobiles, motorcycles, mopeds and even bicycles. 

Two people were injured in a snowmobile crash in Cass County on Saturday, Jan. 25 when a car backing out of a driveway struck a snowmobile driving down the road.  

According to a release from the Cass County Sheriff's Department, Keith Peterson, 33, of Niles, was riding a snowmobile south on Bame Avenue when Randall Womble, 60, of Niles, pulled his vehicle out of his driveway.

The two vehicles collided, injuring Peterson and his 8-year-old daughter Emily. The Petersons were taken to Memorial Hospital in South Bend to be treated for their injuries.

In light of these incidents, here are a few reminders of Indiana state law regarding the use and operation of snowmobiles. The complete legislation, along with maps of Indiana snowmobile trails, can be found on the Indiana DNR website.

  • Owners must register their snowmobiles. Snowmobile registration information and forms are available at
  • Snowmobiles cannot be operated between sunset and sunrise unless they have at least one functioning headlight and one functioning taillight. 
  • Snowmobiles may not be operated on public roads, streets, highways, rights-of-way or on a public or private parking lot not designed for the use of these vehicles. There are several exceptions to this rule, including:
  • Snowmobiles can be operated along the right-of-way adjacent to a highway, except a limited access highway, if there is sufficient space to operated the snowmobile off the roadway without endangering life or property.
  • Snowmobile drivers may cross a roadway at a right angle after stopping to check that traffic is clear and yielding to traffic on the roadway.
  • During a weather emergency (such as a blizzard) local law enforcement can authorize the use of snowmobiles on public roadways if the weather makes roads impassable for cars.
  • Children under the age of 14 may not operate a snowmobile without the supervision of someone at least 18 years of age, except on land owned by or under the control of the driver's parent or legal guardian.
  • Snowmobiles cannot be operated on a public roadway without a valid driver's license.
  • Snowmobiles cannot be used to hunt, pursue or kill a wild bird or wild or domestic animal.