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Hand Signals

The general snowmobiling discussion. Discuss snowmobile tech, ask about trail conditions, talk about snowmobiling issues, whatever. Just keep it clean!

Hand Signals

Postby PolarisIndy » November 6th, 2001, 10:58 am

We always use hand signals!!! It kind of p***es me off when people don't. Especially the ones I meet on the trail. I tell them how many are behind me and they just wave, MORON!!!! The whole idea is to avoid collisions. We do this on Bikes, Sleds, ATV's, Jeeps, ETC.... It's all the same. It's always good to know how many are comming around the corner, so you know to watch for them, stop, or open it back up. It's up to the leaders of the group to watch for other riders on the trail, then tell whoever is behind them to slow it down, then everybody else behind them should tell the oncomming traffic how many there are behind you, or at least that you are last in your group with a fist... It's just common sense really...

As far as turning or stopping goes, I don't think it really matters what signal you use as long as your sure the guy behing you understands what you mean. We also will point out dangerous objects on the trail. And everybody is responsible for the person behind you.
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Hand Signals

Postby Lynn Keillor » November 7th, 2001, 6:13 am

Actually, according to the agreed-upon hand signals from the state and provincial associations, the "thumb pointing backward" is the proper indication to "more people behind." Personally, I think that one is easier than trying to flash "25" and especially if the rider isn't exactly sure how many are behind. The countdown is nice, though, with numbers 5 or less.

I've found that locations with a lot of rental machines (such as West Yellowstone or some places in Quebec) are the worst for hand signal usage. Either a rental operator isn't explaining the basics, or the renter isn't listening. I'm not sure which.
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Hand Signals

Postby Burky » November 7th, 2001, 1:24 pm

I made my living on aircraft carrier flight decks for 20 years, and we quite literally could live or die on our use of hand signals. For the snowmobile, if riding in a group over 5 I just hold up left hand with five fingers. The last few in the group countdown to the last person with a closed fist. If we have just passed something with possible danger to oncoming riders, I make the slow down signal pushing the left palm flat towards the ground. Signal that I am stopping by a raised left flat hand, and pulling to the side. Try to use official signals when I can, but sometimes other common sense signals have come into use. We always discuss it in a group before taking off, and then stick by our agreed upon rules.
If you are in the ditch, upside down, and the sled's on top of you, you are doing something wrong.....
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Hand Signals

Postby Lynn Keillor » November 9th, 2001, 7:33 am

I've had a few questions on the "approved hand signals." Here's a link that states them. The only real difference is that the American Council of Snowmobile Associations and its Canadian counterpart have approved the "fist" as the last in line signal, rather than the chop.

Are these signals adequate?

http://www.state.me.us/ifw/rv/snowhand.htm
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Hand Signals

Postby Trekkr » November 12th, 2001, 5:08 am

Lynn, in response to your original post...

1) Only signals of stop, watch out for oncoming traffic ahead, watch out for possible danger (rock, hole, blind spot), or slow down.

2) It varies in our experience, sometimes a ton of people are waving all over the place, sometimes not.

3) Doesn't matter to us. See below.

4) Never seem to need any left or right signals in our group when riding at speed. As for intersections, we ride slow enough through them that any other group near us knows what we are doing.

Now, my humble opinions (and those in our group) on this issue are probably different than most.

Simply put, the hand signals used for stop, danger, caution, slow down, pointing out different things along the trail, etc. are fine when used within your group and between different groups.

However, we strongly believe the hand signals used to inform of the number of riders in your group, the number of riders behind you, or the last sled in line are COMPLETELY UNNECESSARY and SILLY. Let me try to explain.

I cannot tell you how many times we have been riding along, and the last rider in a group puts up a fist, yet, not more than 10 yards behind him is another sled. Good for a laugh, but how stupid! And does he/she know about the group that just jumped onto the trail behind them, or the group that is steadily gaining on them and is nearby? I think not. How about when those that put up the fingers for the number of sleds left in their group have no idea how far behind they are... do they know if another group has started passing their own group behind them? No. And should anyone feel any MORE complacent and comfortable THAN USUAL just because they get "the fist" sign and figure nobody else is coming? Of course not... no matter if there is someone coming or not, everyone should be alert enough to stay on their side of the trail and be ready to slow down if a sled approaches. Simply put, if everyone would stay on their side of the trail and in control, it would not matter in the least bit if there were 1 rider behind them, or 100. If it makes a rider feel better knowing that there is supposedly another sled coming, fine... but I have never felt the need to know how many are coming up or who is last... we assume there is ALWAYS someone around every corner.

Signal all you want to our group, but don't be surprised when we just politely wave back or give you a "thumbs up" on your nice looking sled. We don't care how many sleds are behind you, or how many sleds are behind us... we ride the same no matter if we're in extreme northern Ontario on a dull Wednesday, or in Cadillac on a busy Saturday. (And yes, we do ride at a very aggressive level, as long as the conditions and ability permit.) We only signal when there is something to signal about... like that moose we just passed, or that blind corner everyone should watch out for. Don't get pissed off at us... we're not the "idiots" or "morons" you think we are. Common sense, people, common sense.
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Hand Signals

Postby kenlacy » November 12th, 2001, 5:34 am

What does a moose signal look like? You would have to take both hands of the handlebars, stick your thumbs where your ears are supposed to be and wave all your fingers straight up? Sounds more dangerous than the Moose itself :)
Recently I was asked to play in a golf tournament.

At first I said, "Naw, I haven't been playing that well."

Then they said to me, "Come on, it's for handicapped and blind kids."

Then I thought...




Chit, I could win this!
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Hand Signals

Postby Mainecat » November 12th, 2001, 6:31 am

Ken I am usally first in our group and have used the MOOSE warning. Both hands on side of helmet with fingers up! lol With a group of 4 I put up 4 fingers and the group counts down. The last rider gives the clenched fist. The stop is the hand up. If its a ditch or water hazard its a arm pump and raised hand a few times. (or a wet hand) lol
I too get pissed if someone does not use hand signals. The first few weeks of the season is the worst when everyones going too fast and not signaling.
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Hand Signals

Postby michahicks » November 12th, 2001, 7:26 am

Although I can follow Trekr's logic that one does not always know about a group in back of him
when he displays a cleched fist or the sense of constant awareness that you must have going into a corner blind at speed, I find I must respectfully disagree with the fact that he and his group should not be using the standard count down hand signals. There are different degrees of awareness required on the trail. My common sense says that if someone flashes a 5 at me, even if I don't see anyone, I'm probably a lot less inclined to stuff my sled into the next corner even if I maintain proper lane usage. What if the guy behind you hasn't? I don't understand why you don't care if someone else is coming at you at speed? Why do you believe that it is too much trouble to warn me of this potential? Am I supposed to assume the person behind you is aware of the corner while following you in your snow dust barely able to make out your tail light, maybe even trying to catch up a little? Where is the logic in this? It would probably be in my own best interest, along with others, to drive with a little more apprehension or awareness until this group I haven't seen yet is spotted and passed. The fact that I may have interpetted that hand signal wrong or that it was displayed improperly, is a gamble I will willingly take in trade for when everything works as it should and I have a clearer picture of what lies ahead of me on the trail. Sorry, anything I can do towards that end(having a better idea of what lies ahead)is worth it in the minimal risk I assume by believing a hand signal. The time and trouble it takes to supply others with a clearer picture of what's in back of me, or more correctly, what I BELIEVE is in back of me, is more than worth it, especially when the courtesy is returned.

Not a moron either,
AL
1997 38' HR Endeavor, 275 Cat, Freightliner
2003 CR-V Toad, Blue Ox, Ready Brake
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Hand Signals

Postby Trekkr » November 13th, 2001, 5:22 am

AL - Point well taken, and I understand where you're coming from. Again I say, if everyone was 100% aware, 100% of the time, number signals and fists would not be needed. And even if people aren't 100% aware 100% of the time (which they obviously are not), I'm not about to change the way I ride (lower my alertness) due to someone believing there is nobody behind them when there really is, or believing there are only 2 behind, yet 3 or 4 are actually back there.

Here's an example of just last year: We're riding in lower Michigan and an oncoming group (group A) goes by us, running at a normal pace. No problem. We keep riding for about 10 minutes, and then decide to turn around and go back. We then come back to this same group A stopped along the trail, who happened to get tangled up with another group (group B). We learn that group B was previously riding about 3 miles behind us unknown to us, one of group A clipped the lead rider in group B causing quite a collision, and it occurred on a wide open turn with plenty of room had the rider in group A been alert and stayed on his side. We stop to see if we can help, and the guy who clipped group B starts tearing into us for not giving him a signal that group B was behind us. Now, how insane is that? How were we to know? And why would it have made any difference?

Bottom line, if the guy was in control, if he was alert, if he was on his side of the trail, he wouldn't have had the collision, period. If our last in line guy would have given a fist signal, the result would have obviously been the same. And if group B was actually part of our group but just way behind and we signalled that they were back there, I highly doubt the rider in group A would drive with such extreme caution for 3 miles until he met the remaining riders in our group. Maybe you would, but I doubt most would. You see, fist or no fist, 2 or 200 sleds behind, the result would have been the same due to careless driving. That is the root of it all, carelessness. And getting into the habit of taking a person's signal as an indication of what lies ahead in terms of oncoming sleds, instead of riding with 100% alertness and being ready for anything, is dangerous.

As stated, our group rides assuming there will ALWAYS be someone coming at us, regardless of 10 fingers, or none. In close to 80 years combined snowmobiling experience we have never had so much as a close call with another group where a number signal or fist would have made the difference. Therefore, we have never wanted another group or felt the need for another group to warn us of any oncoming traffic, because we are ALWAYS on the lookout for it anyway. We don't think it's wrong that others use the number signals... go ahead and do it if it makes you feel comfortable. We just feel it is unnecessary. Of course, we use many other signals to communicate with each other and with other groups... just not the number stuff.

To answer a few of your questions, we do care if there is someone coming at us at speed... that is why we are aware and alert of that possibility 100% of the time. We don't need the last guy in line telling us that, or the middle riders in a group telling us how many are coming. Heck, might as well have everyone make a signal that there is something or someone behind them, because that is how everyone should be riding.

You also go on to say that "if someone flashes a 5 at you, that you would be less inclined to stuff your sled into a corner." So, you're saying that if someone flashes you a fist, that you would be more inclined to stuff your sled into a corner? I hope not. That's what I'm talking about. If a fist sign gives everyone the feeling that they can ride any differently than before, they're going to get in trouble eventually.

Maybe I should have clarified myself a little more... it isn't too much trouble for me to warn you of what's behind me... we always motion with a thumb pointing backwards if we know there are riders of our group behind us. I should have said this in the beginning, and I agree with you, if there is anything we can do to give a clearer picture of what lies ahead, we should do it. (It shouldn't be needed, but we do it anyway out of habit and consideration.) But this business of counting fingers and fists is the ridiculous part. I guess that is the point I was trying to make with all of this. Please understand it is not my intention to offend you or argue with you alone... I think we agree on most everything, and I was only trying to garner some discussion as to why our group does not use the number system when signaling. I hope you can understand my long-winded and complicated explanations.

Finally, you say "There are different degrees of awareness required on the trail." This is where I strongly disagree. If you or anyone truly believes that, you're kidding yourself and it will catch up to you. I just pray that when it happens, and it most definitely will if that is how you or anyone else rides, that it isn't too serious an accident and that nobody gets hurt.

Still not trying to be a moron. =)
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