Trail Etiquette for First Time Off-Roaders
UTVs are more affordable and accessible than ever before, leading to an overflow of inexperienced drivers who don’t understand off-road etiquette that helps everyone stay safe while off-roading. To ensure an enjoyable and safe experience for everyone involved, read on to learn more about trail etiquette for first-time off-roaders.
Pay Attention to Trail Signage and Local Laws
Public riding areas often have specific trail signage that indicates where you can and can’t operate your UTV. Designated trails protect land and communities, as well as separate non-motorized travelers. Research ahead of time if your location has selected routes, and ensure you always remain in non-restricted areas when off-roading.
In addition to following signage, always research your destinations for requirements permits, passes, street legal laws, and safety equipment (whips, helmets, etc.) to ensure you stay compliant with local law enforcement. These requirements vary by state, and it’s important to research what you will need before your trip to avoid losing time of the trails.
Determine Right of Way and Use Hand Signals
Some public off-roading trails are mixed-use, meaning you may encounter other motorized vehicles (4x4s, SUVs, ATVs, dirt bikes, etc.) along with bikers, hikers, and even horseback riders. It’s essential that you understand who has the right of way in any given situation to ensure the safety of everyone on the trail. Non-motorized parties always have the right of way when traveling opposite your UTV, making it your responsibility to move out of their path. In cases involving two motorized parties, the larger vehicle gets priority. Depending on where you ride, you may not have the right of way. Always look for oncoming trail traffic and plan ahead to create a safe space for passing.
When encountering oncoming trail traffic, signal the number of vehicles following you to the oncoming driver. This lets them know what to expect and prevents a potential collision. Every rider in the group should signal the number of cars following their vehicle. The last rider in the group should show a closed fist signaling they are the last vehicle and it is safe to continue.
Practice Safe Driving Habits
What exactly are safe off-roading driving habits? Driving an SXS can be dangerous, and there are real consequences for mistakes and reckless driving. It’s always best to err on the side of caution. Start slowly, and build speed. Take time to get comfortable with your vehicle and how it handles each type of terrain. Always wear your helmet and safety harnesses when driving your vehicle. They are life-saving devices that should never be ignored, even for the shortest ride. It’s your job as a driver to keep yourself, your passengers, and your vehicle safe. As a beginner, safe driving habits will teach you significantly more about proper off-roading techniques than jumping in full throttle.
Respect the Environment
Without these beautiful trails, off-roaders would have no place for fun! It’s crucial that you respect your environment out on the trails. Every year, government agencies close riding areas because people abuse them. It’s important to stay on marked trails when required, take care to not destroy wildlife or vegetation, and never leave behind trash. There are great organizations like the American Sand Association that fight for our rights as riders and to keep riding areas open. It’s our responsibility to ensure we are good stewards of the places we love to ride. Consider becoming a member of one of these organizations so you can protect our riding rights and stay up to date on current issues.
By following proper trail etiquette, first-time off-roaders can become seasoned riders in no time. These practices help protect you, your passengers, your vehicle, and other travelers on the trail. Check out our quality selection of off-road aftermarket parts if you are hoping to improve the performance and styling of your UTV.