FAIRBANKS (AP) -- Alaska State Troopers have started using snowmachines to patrol along the Chena River and elsewhere in the city. They are responding to an upswing in both brazen riding and snowmachine-related deaths in the state.
It is the first time a trooper detachment has made a concerted effort to keep tabs on snowmachiners on their own turf, according to Alaska State Troopers spokesman Greg Wilkinson.
Wilkinson said it's a result of several calls from citizens complaining of reckless snowmachiners. Snowmachiners have reportedly been cruising down sidewalks and on busy roads.
The patrols began last Sunday along Geist Road, Chena Pump Road and University Avenue. Troopers have also contacted snowmachiners driving on the Chena, said Sgt. Ronald Wall, rural unit supervisor and the trooper heading up the patrols.
''It was a real punishment,'' he joked of the duty.
This winter is among the worst on record for snowmachine-related deaths, according to the Department of Public Safety.
Since October snowmachiners have drowned, died of exposure, been crushed to death by an avalanche, fatally crashed into trees and telephone poles, and had fatal falls. One unlucky snowmachiner was killed when he inadvertently drove off a cliff.
A woman in Delta Junction was killed last month after she fell off a snowmachine and was hit by one coming from behind.
''We're not out to issue citations. What we want to do is gain compliance for safety purposes,'' Wall said.
Starting as soon as next week the troopers plan to issue citations to violators, with fines up to $300 for those snowmachining on an unregistered vehicle.
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