responsible offroad driving

the path less travelled

responsible offroad driving

By Andy Enright

Whether we like it or not, 4x4s have become something of a political hot potato. Vilified by some as responsible for wastefully churning out tonnes of greenhouse gases, the 4x4 driver must always be on their guard not to provide the ill-informed and the politically opportunist with any more ammunition with which to target them and driving responsibly off road is a key component of this.

The image of the selfish SUV driver may contain a germ of truth but an attitude that can pass as simple boorishness in traffic can have a long lasting environmental impact when transferred to off road driving. I'll put my hand up and admit that I took a short cut from the approved route at our 4x4 Of The Year test and blazed a trail across an innocuous, grassy looking hilltop. It probably saved me thirty seconds but the flattened grass was spotted by Land Rover staff and they weren't best pleased. Thinking that the grass would spring back up in proper game tracking style, I was dismayed to still see my tracks there two days later acting as an open invitation for others to follow.

All 4x4 manufacturers have become very sensitive to the environmental impact of their wares and Land Rover have published an off road code that upholds the company's global promise to help preserve the environments their customers explore. This sense of environmental responsibility extends from the manufacture and design of vehicles to the promotion of eco-friendly off-roading. These guidelines include:

- Being aware of different traveling regulations in different countries, and always seeking permission to cross private lands

- Sticking to existing routes

- Driving carefully to minimize erosion and damage

- Driving "as slow as possible and as fast as necessary"

- Engaging the diff lock, if available, on low-traction surfaces to minimize wheel spin and road damage

- Proceeding slowly around animals, or switching off engine and waiting for them to pass

- Fully preparing your vehicle for the journey with appropriate tools and supplies

- Using eco-friendly cleaning materials, washing vehicles away from water sources not in them and taking all litter back with you

- Respecting the peace and tranquility of others

- Doing a safety check when preparing to go back on the road, and driving slowly to minimize road-debris damage to other vehicles

If we just observe these simple and relatively painless procedures then the fun of 4x4 off-road driving will be preserved for years to come. Ignore them and there are any number of opportunist politicians who won't hesitate to burnish their 'green' credentials. Let's face facts. The 4x4 driver's image needs rehabilitation and here's one easy way to start.