Four-wheeling/off-road driving is a popular American pastime. There is fun and challenge in navigating terrain off the main roads. The truth is, however, that you can find yourself in a remote and very hostile environment in just a few hours. Don’t set out without following these important off-road driving safety tips!
- Do a pre-excursion inspection to make sure that your vehicle is in good running order and is holding gear necessary for off-road driving. Carry winches, high-lift straps, and clevises to help dislodge your vehicle in case it gets stuck. Know how to use them before setting out.
- Pack a survival kit even if you are only planning a short trip; you never know when you can get into trouble. At minimum you should have gear to get you through the night, deal with a basic medical situation, and call for help. The minimum list should include cell phone and gps radio, blankets/sleeping bags, flashlight/lantern, water, high protein snacks, water, and basic first aid kit.
- Always tell someone (who will not be on the trip) where you are going and when you plan to return. They will then know to contact the authorities if you do not return or become unable to call for help.
- Always go with another vehicle of friends or two. This means that if something goes wrong with your vehicle or it becomes stuck or badly damaged you will have a ride out and someone else to call for help.
- When off-road driving you can expect that your vehicle will do a fair amount of bouncing around. Anything loose in the vehicle will fly around the car so be sure to tie down anything large or heavy for your safety.
- Every passenger should always wear a seatbelt! Just because there are no police officers to enforce the law like there are on paved roads does not mean that you should stop using seatbelts. They will keep you in your seat in the event of a crash into a big rock or tree or in the event of an unexpected rollover.
- Always keep hands and legs inside the vehicle. You are risking serious injury to your limbs by hanging them outside of the car; narrow passageways can bring you into close contact with trees, cliff walls, and rocks. Also note that it is futile to put your hand out the window in order to prevent the vehicle from tipping over.
- Make sure that none of the passengers holds onto the roll bar. Their fingers would get smashed in the event of a rollover and they would also be running the risk of being injured by low-hanging branches.
- Only drive when at your best. Avoid off-road driving if you are overly tired or intoxicated. If you become tired while out on the trail, take a break to rest or ask another person to drive.
- Put your vehicle in park and activate the emergency brake every time you stop. You do not want to risk your vehicle rolling away because you are on uneven ground.
- Do not hang or climb on a vehicle to get it out of a stuck position. If your vehicle gets stuck never attempt to pull it down or tip it by hand; use the proper tools and techniques, and always from a safe distance away. Vehicles are heavy and have the weight to crush a person.
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