Enjoy the last days of winter: But remember, trains and snowmobiles can be a deadly mix

For many Canadians, the end of winter can’t come soon enough. But for snowmobile enthusiasts, March offers the last chance to get out and enjoy Canada’s snowy outdoors. But if you’re hitting the trails, always stay clear of train tracks—snowmobiles and trains can be a deadly combination.

In March 2019, a 69-year-old man from Chipman, N.B., was killed after the snowmobile he was driving collided with a train. In February 2017, another man died after his snowmobile collided with a train on a trail north of Barrie, Ont.

Operation Lifesaver (OL) wants to prevent tragic incidents like these from happening. If you’re a snowmobiler, we urge you to experience our Look. Listen. Live. snowmobile-focused virtual reality (VR) video. The 360 video gives viewers the shocking—and hopefully unforgettable—experience of what being involved in a snowmobile-train collision would be like.
“We produced this video because we heard from our railway partners that snowmobilers were sometimes using railway tracks and rights-of-way as trails—which is both illegal and extremely dangerous. They were also seeing that riders weren’t approaching crossings with sufficient caution,” says Sarah Mayes, National Director of Operation Lifesaver Canada.

Know how to stay safe when you hit the trails

A snowmobile’s loud engine, as well as a rider’s helmet and other gear, can mask the sound of an oncoming train’s whistle. Reduced visibility during a snowstorm can also make it hard to see a train coming. Snowmobiles can also become lodged in the tracks if drivers cross railways at the wrong angle, or anywhere other than designated rail crossings.

But following these simple rail safety rules will ensure this snowmobile season is a fun and safe one:
  • Stay off tracks and only use approved trails.
  • Always cross railway tracks at designated crossings at a 90-degree angle, or as close to that angle as possible.
  • When approaching a crossing, stop no closer than 5 metres from the nearest rail, look both ways and listen for approaching trains. Cross only once you have a clear view and are sure all trains have passed and/or the warning lights have stopped flashing.
  • Never ride next to train tracks. Trains are wider than the tracks, and your helmet and the noise from your engine or the wind can make it hard to hear when a train is approaching.
  • If your snowmobile stalls or gets stuck on the tracks, get off immediately and move a safe distance away.
Check out OL’s website for other resources to help ensure your favorite winter pastime is a safe one.