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10 Off-Road Driving Safety Tips

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The 2016 Chevrolet Silverado 2500 HD features a front chrome bumper

Off-road exploration is one of the most exciting ways to challenge your driving skills and experience the outdoors. However, like most adventurous hobbies, proper safety is integral to keeping the fun rolling. Here are a few tips to consider before you hit the trails.

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  1. Keep others informed: Let a friend or a family member know where you’re going, when you’re heading out, and when you plan to return. That way, if you get stranded in the wilderness with no way to call for help, your loved one can help rescuers find you.
  2. Use the buddy system: Bring a friend along. Your friend can act as your co-pilot, assistant, and navigator. Off-road exploring is even more fun with more vehicles along for the expedition. Extra vehicles can ensure transportation and towing if you get stuck on the trail.
  3. Gather your gear: Be sure to bring along a few essentials, including food, water, a hand winch, tow straps, a high-lift jack, a shovel, a tire inflator, wood blocks, a change of clothes, and a first aid kit.
  4. Tie down cargo: While it’s important to bring your cargo along for the adventure, you’ll stay safer if it’s tied down. If your vehicle rolls over or crashes, unsecured cargo could end up getting damaged, breaking a window, or smacking into you.
  5. Common-sense safety: Make sure everyone in the vehicle keeps their seatbelt fastened and their limbs safely inside the vehicle. If your vehicle gets stuck in a precarious position, don’t try to climb on it or tip it by hand — it could fall on you. Instead, wait for help and stay a safe distance away from any vehicle that could fall on you.
  6. Embrace the emergency brakes: Instead of relying upon first gear or your automatic transmission to keep your vehicle from rolling away, park your vehicle and engage the emergency brake.
  7. Get ready to walk: If there’s any doubt that your vehicle can handle the mud, sand, and obstacles on foot, it’s a good indicator that your vehicle will struggle.
  8. Have the right equipment: Even if your vehicle has a high-tech four-wheel-drive system, it needs the right equipment to safely traverse rugged terrain. Equip your vehicle with mud tires, skid plates, and additional lights, which can be extremely helpful if your trek runs late into the evening.
  9. Check your car: It’s always a good idea to check your coolant, oil, washer fluid, and tire pressure before an adventure. When your windshield is covered in mud, you’ll rely heavily on washer fluid for visibility. As for tires, some off-roaders lower their vehicle’s tire pressure before hitting the trails. Just make sure you re-inflate them before returning to the roads.
  10. Steer clear of water: When you run across a watery part of the trail, there’s no telling if it’s a shallow puddle or a deep trench. Unless you’ve watched another vehicle traverse the trail or you’ve walked through the water yourself, it’s best to avoid puddles.

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Sources: 4×4 Training, Mobil Oil, Rock Chuck Summit