Off-roading is a great way to have fun with your vehicle. You can challenge your driving skills going just a few miles per hour, enjoy the outdoors, and be back in a week or by the end of the day. However, difficult trails, mechanical breakdowns and lack of experience can turn a fun drive into a dangerous one. How can you reduce your risk and make sure your next trail ride will be a safe one?
What Causes Off-Roading Accidents?
Incidents are much higher for inexperienced drivers. On average, new drivers are 13 times more likely to have an accident than off-roading veterans. This makes training and a slow build up to difficult trails critical to ensuring your safety.
30% of accidents involve intoxication. You may be driving slow, but it doesn’t make impaired driving any less dangerous.
Rollovers are common. If you have a vehicle with a removable top, keep the roll bars in place. If you have an older vehicle, have a roll bar installed. It can make the difference between leaving your vehicle unhurt and having woken up in a hospital.
Does My Insurance Cover Me and My Vehicle?
Your regular auto policy stops once you drive into the countryside. Off-road policies are available for autos that work the same as they do for your standard coverage. This includes coverage for injuries, vehicle damage and uninsured drivers.
Did you spend a lot of money outfitting your vehicle for off-roading? If so, be sure your insurance will cover your vehicle and its modifications.
Do I Need a License?
Wisconsin requires an OHV/ORV Education Card under certain circumstances to use state trails. “OHV” stands for “Off-Highway Vehicle,” but it only covers motorcycles, ATVs and UTVs. If you’re riding an ATV, you need an OHV/ORV card if you’re born after December 31st, 1987 and are at least 12 years old. Dirt bike riders need an off-highway motorcycle (OHM) card if they’re born after December 31st, 1997 and are at least 12 years old. If you’re off-roading in a truck or SUV, you don’t need to pass an education course.
How Do I Learn?
– Take a training course. This will help you with the basics of control, spotting and rescue.
– Read your vehicle owner’s manual. Modern vehicles have features like off-road traction control and hill descent control that you need to learn to get the most from your experience.
– Join a local off-roading club. They’ll know local trails, and it’s easy to get on group rides that will give you the chance to work with experienced drivers.
– Practice at an off-road park. These parks are set up with sections designed around different skill levels, and they’re all close to the main parking area. That means you won’t be stranded if you have a mishap.
How Do I Get My Vehicle Ready for Trail Riding?
Tires – Tall tread blocks and stronger sidewalls give off-road tires far superior grip compared to street tires. When you’re buying new rubber for your car, don’t forget to pick up a full-size spare. If you have a flat on the trail, a donut spare isn’t going to be helpful.
Air compressor and tire gauge – When you’re on the trail, you’ll want to lower tire pressures to let the rubber flex around terrain for more grip. Once you’re done off-roading, you need to air your tires back up to be safe for highway driving.
Lighting – Your headlights are designed to throw light over a long, focused area for clear highway driving. However, if you get caught in low light conditions, you’ll need to light up the area directly around your vehicle.
Skid plates – It’s better to scrape up these plates than break mechanical components underneath them.
Rescue equipment – High lift jacks, tow straps and winches can get you unstuck. A fire extinguisher can stop small fires from turning into disasters. A CB radio or satellite phone can keep you in touch when you’re out of range of cell towers. Expect at least some of this equipment to be mandatory on group rides and in some parks.
Don’t go alone. Having a second vehicle on-hand can help you if you get stuck. Having a spotter can save you and your vehicle.
Snow melts faster in the afternoon as temperatures increase. As a result, water levels will rise, so a stream you crossed easily in the morning may be impassible later in the day.
Make sure someone knows where you’re going and talk to them periodically through your trip. If you lose contact, they can call emergency services.
On-Road or Off, if You Have an Accident, Visit Merton Auto Body
Did you need autobody work done to your 4×4? Take it to Merton Auto Body. Our on-staff appraiser will work with your insurance company to get work approved, so you can have your vehicle back as soon as possible. We have the latest training and equipment to handle any vehicle from antiques to the newest trucks and SUVs. Our shop is between Lisbon and North Lake, just a short drive or tow from Pewaukee and Hartland.