Deputies patrolling trails as snowmobile season hits stride

More snow means more snowmobilers out on the lakes and trails. Scott County sheriff's deputies were keeping an eye on snowmobilers, making sure they are abiding laws - old and new.

“We all got very excited,” said Katelyn Nytes, a snowmobiler. “I know that her dad went a got a new snowmobile, and so we’ve all been waiting to try out our new stuff and go and enjoy it.” 

For law enforcement, more snowmobilers out and about means more deputies need to be out on patrol, especially to enforce new laws for snowmobilers.  

“In the past, if it was a first-time offense in some situations your license wouldn’t automatically revoked, but now if you test over a .08 [blood alcohol content], it’s automatic revocation – even of a car license,” said Scott County Sheriff’s Deputy Spencer Autenrieth.

Deputies say the change to the DWI law, also known as "Little Alan's Law" after the boy who was fatally struck by a drunk snowmobiler, is one of the bigger adjustments this season. However, it's not the only law they see broken.

“We deal with trespass laws, where if they veer off the snowmobile trails put on by the snowmobile association, they tend to veer off onto people’s property, and they can do some damage,” said Scott Country Patrol Sgt. William Vendel.

If a snowmobiler takes their snowmobile onto private property they don’t have permission to be on, it’s an automatic trespass. The land doesn't have to be marked with a no trespass sign. 

When it comes to traveling on the trails, deputies say snowmobilers have to ride on the shoulder, and inside slope of state and county roads, come to a complete stop at road crossings and travel with traffic at night. The statewide speed limit for trails and lakes is 50 miles per hour.

“You’re kind of out of your element,” said Nytes. “You have a helmet on. You can’t always see the greatest, so just being aware of the laws, and obviously safety first is the big thing.”