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Off-Road Driving and Safety TipsNotes From The Road

Off-Road Driving and Safety Tips
By Mac Demere/autoMedia.com

Speed is Not Your Friend -
 
Going off roading? Here are your choices:  Carry your stuff on your back; walk beside a mule with your stuff on its back; ride in comfort with your stuff in the back of a four-wheel-drive.

The speed will be about the same. If you drive much faster than a walking pace there’s a chance you’ll be forced into the first option.
 
As a teenager, I wanted to cross a muddy section of field in a two-wheel-drive pickup on near-bald tires. I assessed that my only hope was speed. (If you ever say, “My only hope is ... ” know that the rest of the sentence is ”a miracle.”) When the old Ford hit the swampy strip, it sunk floorboard-deep into the mud and came to a near-instant stop. The rear tires must have come off the ground because I feared it was about to flip forward.
 
Here are the lessons I should have learned, but didn’t because I was a teenager:

Speed is not your friend.
The off-road driver’s mantra is “As Slow As Possible, As Fast As Necessary.” (The original author of this quote is uncertain, but I first heard it at a Land Rover driving school.) Sometimes a little speed may be required to climb a hill or conquer a hazard. However, if you think the obstacle requires even 10 mph, you’re probably not going to make it. And you’re going to damage something or get stuck.


Sometimes you can’t get there from here.
This is true even with a well-equipped vehicle and a skilled driver—and was certainly true of an unskilled teenager in a poorly equipped vehicle. It’s far easier to discover an alternate route than to find someone willing and able to come to your rescue. Walking the rest of the way is better than walking home.


Stay on the trail.
Trying to blaze my own trail not only got me stuck, but it left ruts that remained for years. Drive on previously used paths: You’ll know it’s possible to make it through there and you’ll do less damage to the environment. A warning: Just because somebody else made it doesn’t guarantee you will. Maybe they had a better vehicle, were a more skilled driver or went through before it rained.



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