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Project Drive Sober: drunken snowmobiling

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Posted at 10:06 PM, Jan 23, 2020
and last updated 2020-01-23 23:06:38-05

DOOR COUNTY (NBC 26) — Engines are running, snow is falling, and snowmobile trails are starting to open up around Northeast Wisconsin.

"We're getting pretty excited now," May's Sport Center owner Jeff May said. "A lot of our customers have been waiting for months actually for winter to finally get here."

For May, that means busy time inside his shop and a lot of activity on the trails.

"It's good to see it finally get to a point where we're able to use the snowmobiles," he said.

All of the excitement also comes a word of caution about drinking alcohol on these trails. Last year, the DNR said that alcohol was a contributing factor in more than half the state's snowmobile fatalities. The DNR reported 16 fatal snowmobile accidents in 2019. In some casese, the riders had blood alcohol levels two and three times the legal limit. As of January 12 of this year, the DNR eported four fatal accidents and cited alcohol use in at least one of them.

"It affects your judgment, and that's typically what's going to cause the problem," May said. "Your judgment gets affected whether you're driving a car, or driving a snowmobile, or a motorcycle. The alcohol definitely affects your judgment and your timing."

May says that alcohol is often a part of snowmobile culture, but it doesn't have to be.

"I don't believe that we need alcohol to enhance the sport as long as our trails are opened, our trails are groomed, and everybody can enjoy their time," he said.

In Wisconsin, a drunken driving offense on a snowmobile is not a crime. It's also not a motor vehicle violation. If someone is given a citation, it would be a DNR violation.