Snowmobile Regulations Lawyer
Serving all of Maine including Portland, Augusta, Saco, Bangor, and Biddeford
In many areas of Maine, the sound of a snowmobile is as familiar as birds chirping in the morning. In some places, it can be nearly year-round. The popularity of snowmobiling in the state is astounding, though not surprising, considering how snowy and rural it is in the northern scopes of Maine. With approximately 100,000 snowmobile registrations and more than 13,500 miles of groomed trails, the state of Maine knows how popular the activity has become, and has enacted numerous laws and regulations to make sure that it's done in a safe, and non-destructive, way.
With only small exceptions, snowmobiles have to be registered in order to be used on the trails in Maine. For Maine residents, new registrations can only be done through a registration agent, or at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife office, in Augusta. Renewals can be done online, or using a paper application. Both require a small fee. Non-Maine residents can make new registrations or renew old registrations online. Registrations are good for a year, though non-residents have the option of getting a 3-day registration, as well. After registering, your registration stickers will arrive in the mail. These stickers must be displayed on the snowmobile, and the registration certificate must be presented to law enforcement, if they request to see it.
There are numerous ways of driving a snowmobile unsafely. To protect snowmobilers, the laws of Maine have described many ways of driving that will result in snowmobile drivers being penalized.
Drivers are required to stop for both uniformed law enforcement, as well as landowners, when they are requested to do so. Additionally, snowmobile operators have the responsibility of notifying law enforcement of any accidents or injuries on the trails.
Snowmobile drivers can't drive on plowed roads, or public highways, if there are notices stating that they should not do so. This includes driving on the road itself, a sidewalk running alongside the road, or on the plowed snow banks along the roadside. If you're trying to cross a public road, you must stop before entering the roadway, and give vehicles right-of-way. Once it's safe, you can cross the street in as short a distance as possible, staying on the extreme right-hand side of the road while on it. There are certain instances where snowmobiling on the roadway is permissible, though, such as weather emergencies, and during snowmobiling events.
Many snowmobile trails, like roads, have two directions, and drivers have to keep on the right-hand side. While there is no stated speed limit for driving a snowmobile, drivers have to keep to a reasonable speed that won't endanger themselves or other drivers. What is “reasonable” is based on the conditions at the time, so it can fluctuate. Driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol, is as illegal on a snowmobile as it is in a car, though.
There are also requirements for things like noise, lighting, and headgear, and restrictions on where snowmobile drivers can go.
Keeping trails open on private land is a tricky business. The public gets to enjoy more trails, but is also put at greater risk, because a private landowner will not be maintaining the trails as well as the state maintains the public trails. A lack of trail maintenance results in less safe snowmobiling terrain, which can lead to injuries, which can lead to lawsuits. For a landowner who has graciously allowed snowmobilers to use his or her land, getting sued for it seems unfair.
The state of Maine's response to this difficult situation is to make a law stating that landowners can't be sued if their land is unsafe for snowmobiling, and do not have to warn of any unsafe areas. There are, however, exceptions to this rule. If the landowner is being paid to allow snowmobiling on their land, or if failing to warn of a dangerous condition on their land would be considered malicious, then the landowner can find themselves open to a lawsuit if a snowmobiler gets hurt on their property.
Snowmobilers on another person's property have their own responsibilities, too. If you're using someone else's land to snowmobile, you could face a lawsuit if you damage any of the land, such as bridges, signs, buildings, or roads, or if you litter or dump garbage on their property.
Landowners can prohibit snowmobiling on their own property by posting signs to that effect. If you're snowmobiling, and come across a sign saying that you can't enter or trespass or snowmobile on private property, you need to stay off that property, or risk being caught for trespassing.
Children under the age of 14 have restrictions on where they can drive snowmobiles. Additionally, anyone who allows someone under the age of 18 to drive a snowmobile will, along with the underage driver's parents, be held liable for any damages that result.
While out snowmobiling, it can be difficult to determine where one state ends, and another begins. In Maine, this is especially important, as we share a border with Canada.
If you're crossing into Canada, you have to stop at customs to go over the border. The penalty for not stopping is $5,000, and the loss of your snowmobile. To ride your snowmobile in Canada, you must have a Trail Pass, as well as liability insurance on your vehicle. Several crossings, such as the ones for trail 89/75 near Jackman, and 85/19 in Fort Kent, are open 24 hours, 7 days a week. Other border crossings are open less often.
If you're crossing Maine's only other border, into New Hampshire, you do not need to do anything else for registration if you'll be staying in a park that is at least partially in Maine, or on one of the Maine-New Hampshire Cooperative Trails. These Trails are clearly marked, and are New Hampshire's Trail 18, in the area of Success Pond and Grafton Notch, as well as Maine's Trail ITS-80, in the Evans Notch area of the White Mountain National Forest.
Maine's rustic wilderness is a beautiful area to enjoy the outdoors, and snowmobiling is one of the best ways to do it during the long winter season. Staying within the regulations will help you enjoy the outside as safely as possible. By not following the related regulations and laws, you can find yourself in need of an experienced defense attorney. If you encounter any problems while snowmobiling, contact attorney William T. Bly at (207) 571-8146.