Deadly Snowmobile Crashes A Reminder Of Dangers Amid Winter Fun, Says NY and PA Personal Injury Lawyer

NH Snowmobile Registration

It’s been a dangerous and tragic winter for snowmobilers in New York State. According to news reports, at least 10 people have died this winter in snowmobiling crashes.

In the Twin Tiers, the husband of a 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, who was a passenger.

Police said they were not wearing helmets when David Gee entered Route 417 from private property and struck a Chevrolet Astro Van. McIlwain-Gee was pronounced dead at Guthrie Corning Hospital in East Corning.

Police said David Gee failed to yield the right of way to the van.  Under NY 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 on the roadway.

rainy-lake-593053-unsplash-810x540The fatal Addison snowmobile crash has two of the most dangerous combinations, according to police: alcohol and no helmets.

NY law requires all drivers and passengers on a snowmobile to wear a helmet and NY 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.

There have been many other crashes across the state in recent months, according to news reports:

  • Feb. 1, Herkimer County: A 56-year-old Stony Point man, stepped off his snowmobile and was struck and killed by another operator.
  • Jan. 26, Fulton County: A 27-year-old snowmobiler was found dead near his snowmobile. The investigation continues.
  • Jan. 18, Oneida County: A 45-year-old Boonville man was killed when he struck a tree and was thrown from his snowmobile.
  • Jan. 18, Fulton County: A Dutchess County man hit a fracture in the ice on Great Sacandaga Lake and was killed when he was ejected. Police said speed, lack of visibility, and inexperience were factors.
  • Jan. 13, Herkimer County: A 45-year-old Clay woman lost control of her snowmobile and was killed when she struck a tree and was ejected. Speed was a factor, police said.
  • Dec. 9, Herkimer County: An 18-year-old Adams man was killed when his snowmobile hit a ditch and then a tree.
  • Dec. 7, Herkimer County: A 23-year-old man from Somerset, N.J., was killed when he lost control of the snowmobile and was thrown down a steep embankment. Speed was a factor, police said.
  • Dec. 7, Hamilton County: A 46-year-old Yates County man was killed when he lost control of his snowmobile on a curve and struck a tree. Speed was a factor, police said.

Safety tips

The International Snowmobile Manufacturers Association (ISMA) offers a series of safety tips. They include:

  1. Do preventive maintenance: Make sure your snowmobile is in proper working order before each ride. Follow the guidelines in your owner’s manual and ask your local snowmobile organization about any safety or maintenance programs it may offer. The Safe Riders! Snowmobile Awareness Safety Program, which ISMA sponsors, offers a pre-ride checklist to help you get started.
  2. Wear proper attire: Be prepared for changing weather conditions by dressing in layers, with windproof gear on the outside. You can remove or add layers as needed. In addition, wear warm gloves and help protect your head and your vision with a safety-certified helmet, sun protection goggles and a visor.
  3. Bring a friend: Use the buddy system. You never know when it may prove helpful to have another person with you out on the trails.
  4. Follow the rules of the road: Use caution when crossing any road. Coming to a complete stop, ensuring no vehicles are coming from any direction and crossing at a right angle may help you travel safely.
  5. Communicate carefully: It’s a good idea to clearly communicate your plans to others. That includes leaving your planned route with friends or relatives before you head out so they can send for help if you don’t return on schedule. And, once you’re on the trails, be sure to use hand signals to communicate with other nearby snowmobilers and drivers.
  6. Remain alert: Keep your eyes on the vehicle ahead of you rather than on its taillights. When you watch the taillights, you’re less likely to notice if the snowmobiler in front of you swerves a bit to avoid hitting something. Also, if it’s dark or overcast, be sure to drive slowly enough to see what your headlights reveal.
  7. Avoid frozen water: Don’t ride your snowmobile over a frozen lake or river. You may risk falling through the ice or having much less traction that you do on snow. In addition, if other snowmobilers enter the ice from another direction, collisions may result.

Learn more about riding in New York and Pennsylvania.

You can also review the state laws: NY snowmobiles and PA snowmobiles.

Thanks for reading,


Jim Reed
Managing Partner
Best Lawyers’ “2015 & 2017 & 2019 Lawyer of the Year”
NY & PA Injury & Malpractice Lawyer
Ziff Law Firm, LLP
Office: (607)733-8866
Toll-Free: 800-ZIFFLAW (943-3529)
Blogs: and


Safety Must Come First For ATV Riders Of All Ages, Says NY and PA ATV Injury Lawyer

200117723-001It’s ATV season again in the Twin Tiers, and every year, riders are killed or seriously injured in our area. New York and Pennsylvania have some of the highest ATV fatal accident rates in the country.

If you’re thinking of buying an all-terrain vehicle, or you already have one and you’re ready to head out, take a few minutes and do a little homework. It might save your life or the life of someone you love.

Children should only ride age-appropriate ATVs.

Children should only ride age-appropriate ATVs.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) said that in just the first two weeks in May, at  least 19 deaths were reported across the country, including two children under 16 years old.

The CPSC provides the following tips for riders:

  • Do not drive ATVs on paved roads.
  • Do not allow a child under 16 to drive or ride an adult ATV.
  • Do not drive ATVs with a passenger or ride as a passenger.
  • Always wear a helmet and other protective gear such as eye protection, boots, gloves, long pants and a long-sleeved shirt.
  • Take a hands-on safety training course.

When it comes to children on ATVs:

  • More than 90 percent of ATV-related injuries involving children can be attributed to a lack of developmental skills needed to maneuver the faster, more powerful adult ATVs.
  • Children younger than 16 years old should be on age-appropriate youth models, which are required to travel at lower speeds than adult ATVs and to have an adjustable speed limiter.
  • All ATVs should be equipped with a label that indicates the manufacturer’s recommended age for that particular model.
  • Children younger than 6 years old should never be on any ATV — either as a driver or passenger.

The ATV laws in New York State:

  • No passengers are allowed on the ATV unless it is designed to carry more than one person.
  • All riders (operator and passengers) must wear a helmet at all times.
  • All ATVs must be registered with the Department of Motor Vehicles, renewing registration once every year.
  • ATV use on highways is prohibited, except to cross these roads.
  • No one under 10 may ride or operate an ATV.
  • Operators between 10 and 15 may ride an ATV if they are on their parent’s land and supervised by a parent, or on their parent’s land and in possession of a safety training certificate.
  • No ATV shall be operated without a lighted headlight and taillight from ½ hour after sunset to ½ hour before sunrise.

Read more about the laws here.

The ATV laws in Pennsylvania:

  • No ATV shall be operated without a lighted headlight and taillight from ½ hour after sunset to half-hour before sunrise.
  • All ATVs must be titled and registered, with the owner receiving one numbered plate.
  • Registration is to be renewed once every two years.
  • No one under age 8 shall operate an ATV on state-owned land.
  • No one between 8 and 15 may operate an ATV unless on a parent’s land or in possession of a safety training certificate.
  • No one under 16 may cross a highway or operate an ATV on designated roads unless in possession of a safety certificate and with an adult 18 or older.
  • ATV use on any street or highway is prohibited, except to cross and except for roads designated as ATV roads.

Read more about the laws here.

Have fun riding this summer, but put safety first!

To enroll in an ATV Safety Institute course, click here.

Thanks for reading,


Adam M. Gee, Esq.
NY and PA Injury and Malpractice Attorney
The Ziff Law Firm, LLP
303 William Street
Elmira, NY  14901
Phone: (607)733-8866
Fax: (607)732-6062
Email: [email protected]