(Received 20 January 1994; accepted 15 March 1994)
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Autopsy protocols on all snowmobile fatalities were reviewed for a five year period covering the years 1988–1992, with respect to the age of the victim, sex, operator status, type of accident, fatal injuries sustained, the presence of ethanol, and the month of the year and day of the week the fatality occurred. During the study period there were 31 snowmobile fatalities, accounting for 9.4% of all transportation fatalities. The majority of deaths (54.8%) resulted from drowning and or hypothermia, either as a result of breaking through the ice or driving into open waters. Collision with a stationary or moving object accounted for 22.6% of fatalities, while being thrown from the machine accounted for 16.1% of deaths. Pedestrians accounted for 6.5% of all snowmobile deaths. Head and chest injury were responsible for deaths due to collision, while head and neck injury accounted for deaths due to being thrown from the machine. All victims were male with an average age of 34.7 years and the majority (87%) were vehicle operators at the time of the fatality. Of those tested for the presence of ethanol 86.3% tested positive, 72.7% of whom were legally intoxicated. Accidents occurred throughout the months of December through May, with more accidents occurring on Friday and Tuesday than any other day of the week. Based on these findings snowmobile fatalities could be significantly reduced, with operator education regarding the hazards of ethanol and instruction in ice safety.
Assistant Professor of Pathology (Forensic), Memorial University of Newfoundland, Health Sciences Centre, St. John's, Newfoundland
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