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WNY snowmobile crashes
put spotlight on dangers

The following is the 18th in a series of Odessa File columns by Jim Reed, managing partner of the Ziff Law Firm, regarding news of a legal nature that readers might find timely in this ever-changing world.

By Jim Reed
Managing partner
Ziff Law Firm, Elmira

It's February, so spring fever is in the air. Pitchers and catchers are reporting for major league teams, but there are still plenty of winter days left in Schuyler County. (Sorry!)

And since we're not saying goodbye to winter yet, I want to highlight safe snowmobile operation because snowmobiling has been in the news a lot lately -- unfortunately because of a series of deadly crashes involving snowmobilers in Upstate New York.

At least 10 snowmobilers have been killed upstate this winter and there are some consistent threads that connect the fatalities: In some cases, there were no helmets on the drivers and passengers. In some, drivers were intoxicated. Too often, drivers and passengers were killed when they were ejected after striking a ditch or a tree. Speed was often a factor, too.

In the Twin Tiers, the husband of a Steuben County woman killed on Jan. 21 in a snowmobiling crash is facing multiple felony charges in her death. David A. Gee, 45, of Addison, has been charged with second-degree vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, and aggravated driving while intoxicated, as well as a misdemeanor charge of operating a snowmobile while intoxicated.

The Jan. 21 crash, on state Route 417 in the town of Tuscarora, killed Gee's wife, Billie Jo McIlwain-Gee, his passenger. Police said they were not wearing helmets when David Gee entered Route 417 from private property and struck a Chevrolet Astro Van.

Police said David Gee failed to yield the right of way to the van. Under state law, any snowmobile crossing a road must first come to a complete stop before crossing and is also required to yield the right of way to any vehicle in the roadway.

The fatal Addison snowmobile crash had two of the most dangerous combinations, according to police: alcohol and no helmets. New York State law requires all drivers and passengers on a snowmobile to wear a helmet and the law prohibits the operation of a snowmobile while intoxicated. Both of these are good common-sense laws.

I think another common-sense law should be a state-approved snowmobile safety course for all operators, but currently, the law only requires a safety course for operators between the ages of 10 and 18.

Here are the current laws for young operators: children under 14 can only operate snowmobiles on property owned by their parents or guardians; 10- to-13-year-olds can operate anywhere as long as they have a snowmobile safety certificate and are accompanied by an adult; 14- to 18-year-olds can operate anywhere as long they have a safety certificate or are accompanied by an adult.

All snowmobiles must be insured -- unless they are operated only on property owned or leased by the owner of the snowmobile. The state has set minimum liability coverage limits at $10,000 for a crash involving one person; $20,000 for a crash involving two or more; and $5,000 for property damage from one accident. Snowmobilers must carry proof of insurance, if required, at all times.

The New York State snowmobiling laws can be found here.

To be safe, remember this when you sit on a snowmobile: Don't drink and then drive your snowmobile, or ride with someone who may be intoxicated. Wear a helmet. Follow the laws if you have a child operating a snowmobile. Yield the right of way to motorists if you are crossing or operating on a public road. Go slow and be alert to the dangers in your path ahead.

If you follow these guidelines, you're likely to have a safe and enjoyable ride.

Thanks for reading,


Photo in text: Attorney Jim Reed.



To see Jim Reed's first column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's second column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's third column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's fourth column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's fifth column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's sixth column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's seventh column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's eighth column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's ninth column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's tenth column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's 11th column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's 12th column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's 13th column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's 14th column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's 15th column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's 16th column, click here.
To see Jim Reed's 17th column, click here.
To read Adam Gee's first column, click here.


© The Odessa File 2019
Charles Haeffner
P.O. Box 365
Odessa, New York 14869