Maine snowmobile accidents, deaths up with more winter to go

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PORTLAND, Maine (AP) — Snowmobile accidents and deaths are up in Maine this season as a cold and snowy winter has brought a resurgence of interest in getting out on the state's 13,000 miles of groomed snowmobile trails.

The Maine Warden Service said it has responded to 85 personal injury snowmobile crashes this winter with several more weeks to go in the season. Nine people have died, including a 45-year-old Massachusetts woman on Saturday, when her snowmobile crashed into trees in Parlin Pond Township.

Last winter, the state reported 67 personal injury crashes and five fatalities for the entire season.

The Maine Snowmobile Association said registrations surged this year, up to about 64,000 in early February, or 5,000 more than the total at the end of last snowmobile season. The total is also the highest among the six New England states.

The association is urging its members to exercise caution, said executive director Bob Meyers, adding that operators need to act responsibly, especially given the surge in their numbers.

"What we're telling everybody now is just take it down a notch and be careful," Meyers said. "You're out there having fun and this just should not happen."

Warden Service Cpl. John MacDonald said deteriorating trails caused by some warmer weather earlier this winter has exposed some trail hazards and operator error also has contributed to accidents.

"We're continuing to see speeds too high, and people aren't giving themselves enough time to react," MacDonald said.

The season record for snowmobile fatalities in Maine was in the winter of 2002-2003, in which 16 people died. At the time, more than 100,000 snowmobiles were registered in the state — more than 30,000 more than the current number.

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