Off-roading is lots of fun, but with more people getting the joy of off-roading through their SUVs, people are running into difficulties. The Consumer Federation of America notes that as of September 2020, there were a recorded 489 Off-Highway Vehicle fatalities. Rules of the road exist along with safety considerations. Unfortunately, many new off-roaders either ignore or don't even know about them. This article was designed to help address the five basic rules that all off-roaders should know so that they don't find themselves the victims of an incident.
1. Inform Someone, Pack, Think of Safety
Always tell someone before you hit the road. No one expects to get in trouble, of course, but if you do, it's comforting to know that someone knows where you are. You may not be within cell-phone receiving range, but at least give your contact an ETA on your next arrival point. Pack the right kind of gear for your trek too. Flashlights, recovery straps, chains, anything your vehicle may need in a pinch should come along with you (within reason, of course).
2. Act Smart
Don't stick your hands or other limbs out of a moving vehicle. It might seem like common sense, but it still bears repeating. Even when it looks safe, there's no telling what could happen between one second and another in the wilderness. All it takes is a slip, and your vehicle could shift and pinch your arm or your leg outside of it. You'll need to keep focused, so take rest stops where and when you can. If you find someone in need of help, give them a hand. You have to look out for each other out there.
3. Understand your Vehicle
Those who regularly hit the off-road scene will know their vehicle well, but newcomers may need to understand what the fancy buttons and switches do. Reading up is one way of doing it, but hitting the trail accompanied by someone who does off-roading regularly might inform you even more. Don't do it alone. If you get into difficulties by trying a solo adventure in a vehicle, you don't know you can only blame yourself.
4. Drive the Trail at an Appropriate Speed
Off-roading is a matter of slow-and-steady wins the race. The trail isn't a road. You won't get flat, manicured blacktop from one point to another. Even commercial off-road vehicles need to take these passages slowly. The average speed on most trails works out to around three mph (five kph). Don't rush the track; just take it easy.
5. Watch Your Behavior
Is the trail on private or public land? Will there be off-roaders on trail-bikes or ATVs that won't expect a large vehicle? Yield to others and give way to anything at a lower power level than your own vehicle. Try to keep your mud-splatter to a minimum and don't stop on hard-to-see points on the trail. Try to be conscientious to the other people using the track. It's just the neighborly thing to do. Courtesy goes a long way in off-roading. What you do today might come back to help you later on.
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