Scanning the Terrain

Off-road driving can take you over many different kinds of terrain. You need to be familiar with the terrain and its many different features.

Here are some things to consider.

Surface Conditions: Off-roading can take you over hard-packed dirt, gravel, rocks, grass, sand, mud, snow, or ice. Each of these surfaces affects the steering, acceleration, and braking of your vehicle in different ways. Depending upon the kind of surface you are on, you may experience slipping, sliding, wheel spinning, delayed acceleration, poor traction, and longer braking distances.

Surface Obstacles: Unseen or hidden obstacles can be hazardous. A rock, log, hole, rut, or bump can startle you if you are not prepared for them. Often these obstacles are hidden by grass, bushes, snow, or even the rise and fall of the terrain itself. Here are some things to consider:

• Is the path ahead clear?
• Will the surface texture change abruptly up ahead?
• Does the travel take you uphill or downhill? There is more discussion of these subjects later.
• Will you have to stop suddenly or change direction quickly?

When you drive over obstacles or rough terrain, keep a firm grip on the steering wheel. Ruts, troughs, or other surface features can jerk the wheel out of your hands if you are not prepared.

When you drive over bumps, rocks, or other obstacles, your wheels can leave the ground.

If this happens, even with one or two wheels, you cannot control the vehicle as well or at all.

Because you will be on an unpaved surface, it is especially important to avoid sudden acceleration, sudden turns, or sudden braking.

In a way, off-road driving requires a different kind of alertness from driving on paved roads and highways. There are no road signs, posted speed limits, or signal lights. You have to use your own good judgment about what is safe and what is not.

Drinking and driving can be very dangerous on any road. And this is certainly true for off-road driving. At the very time you need special alertness and driving skills, your reflexes, perceptions, and judgment can be affected by even a small amount of alcohol. You could have a serious — or even fatal — accident if you drink and drive or ride with a driver who has been drinking.

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