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Off-Road Notes

Posted in Features on September 19, 2006
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In the September '06 issue of Off-Road, I said don't use air shocks when building a Jeep or other heavier vehicle ("Flexible Flyer: Part II"). I also said you would probably hear from someone else about how great they work. Well, I've heard from Mt. Logan Off-Road, a shop in Logan, Utah, that builds superb vehicles from buggies to Jeeps to trucks. These guys know what they're doing. Mt. Logan Off-Road uses air shocks for many applications, including Jeeps, and they say they really like the shock's simplicity and performance. It's hard to argue with them because their vehicles work so well.

See - I told you there'd be dissenting views. But let's change the subject.

We live in an age of great electronic advances and, unfortunately, great meddling from the powers that be. In many cases, that meddling takes the shape of "we know what's good for your protection." While we can feel all warm and cuddly that someone cares so much for our safety, it would do us good to remember that people have been making it to a ripe old age without any government intervention for ages before now.

I personally wear a seatbelt at all times when in a vehicle. Do you know any drivers or codrivers who DON'T wear seatbelts in a race? Of course not. If they didn't, they'd expire quickly. Plus, it would be pretty hard to hold on in the cockpit. There are laws in almost every state that require seatbelt use so my family and everyone else is protected, but remember when there were no seatbelt laws? Remember when there were no seatbelts? There were horrendous accidents then as now. The human race wasn't wiped out. What about helmet laws that require a helmet to be worn when riding? I live in a state where those laws don't exist, but I've ridden motorcycles since before I could drive and wouldn't be here now if I hadn't been wearing a helmet. A cracked helmet after one especially nasty accident attested to that.

Seatbelts and helmets: both good ideas. Do we need laws that require us to wear these safety devices? I just figured out, as I'm writing this, that I truly do believe that yes, we need seatbelt laws, if not to protect the adults who don't wear seatbelts, then at least to protect children when they're riding in the non-seatbelt wearer's vehicle. I've obviously been tainted by our modern day. Helmet laws? I think that should be left up to the individual. I wear a helmet, but I don't think I have a right to dictate to someone else that they need to. It's their life, and if they fall off and hit something with their head they'll probably only be hurting themselves. That's their right.

The OE manufacturers and their legal departments have gotten into the "we-know-what's-good-for-you" act also. The Jeep Rubicon and H3 Hummer both come with locking differentials. In both vehicles, the differentials will only lock in Low range below a certain speed. The locker actually disengages when that speed is reached in the H3. You can't lock the diffs in High range in either vehicle. Have fun in the snow or the sand dunes, people. When I asked why these are set up like this, I was told that it was for our protection as well as the vehicle's. There's worry that people will be driving around on the highway with their differentials locked. Admittedly, some might, and break their vehicles for doing so. Idiocy isn't covered under warranty, so I don't understand what the worry is here. Some Rubicon and H3 owners have figured out how to get around this "safety" feature so they can use their vehicles as they were intended - for going anywhere.

I was perusing a GM forum the other day and came across a thread that someone had started about their OnStar failing. For those who don't know, OnStar is a satellite communication feature offered in most GM vehicles that includes a number of things, including a phone, diagnostic services, and safety features. It's a good product that really works. Anyway, this person was saying that his OnStar had failed and didn't want to leave his driveway without its protection. WHAT?! Venture forth into the cruel world without OnStar?! Of course, he should park his vehicle, throw away the keys, go into a corner, and curl up into a ball. This does show how willing we've become to be "protected," whether it be by some safety device added by an OE, or by the government.

Seatbelts, helmets, and other safety features are great inventions we should use. We don't need government or OEM protection making us use them. We were each given a brain, so we can figure out what we need to do to keep ourselves safe. Leave the driveway without OnStar. Drive off-road without a spotter to guide every turn of the wheel. Drive off-road with a locking differential! Protect yourselves when common sense dictates, but also don't be afraid to go where our parents went without government or other protection for ages.

Most of us don't need meddling from any quarter to keep us healthy. To those who do: farewell.

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