Always Prepare For The Worst Before Hitting the Trail
We've all seen the rollover videos on the Internet. Someone rolls his rig 14 times, and when the vehicle comes to a stop, the driver jumps out and does the moonwalk. While these little snippets of web action are entertaining, they are far from reality. Every year off-road enthusiasts are injured-some fatally-when their trail adventure suddenly turns to disaster.
Without a doubt, the highest risk in off-highway recreation is personal injury directly related to vehicular rollover. It's the nature of the game. Rollovers happen, but the outcome can be far less traumatic by properly prepping the vehicle and using a little common sense. Every well-built trail rig should be fitted with safety belts and harnesses, a rollcage, and correctly placed grab handles, and passengers should be briefed on what to do in case of an emergency. We know this sounds a little extreme, but hey, remember the unlucky enthusiasts who are injured every year?
Preaching safety and responsible four-wheeling is part of our job, but there is also a good reason. Off-road recreation is on the rise and so are its related injuries. Your job is to make sure you and your passenger don't become another statistic.
The responsibility of surviving this kind of disaster is placed squarely on the owner and driver of the rig. This CJ is properly equipped with a rollcage and grab handles. The driver should typically hold firmly onto the steering wheel, and solid grab handles on the A-pillar of the rollbar will help keep the passenger's hands safe and inside the vehicle. Make sure a passenger doesn't hold onto the rollbar, as this is a great way to crush or lose fingers. This copilot could have freaked and flung her hands outside the window, but she remained cool-headed, held onto the grab handle, and walked away without a scratch.
Proper safety restraints like this four-point harness are a must in any well-equipped trail rig. The original seatbelts should be swapped out on any vehicle that is used frequently on the trail. Restraints should be adjusted so they comfortably and securely hold the person in the seat, and bracing yourself in the rig should be practiced so it becomes second nature if a situation takes a turn for the worse. This will also keep you from being flung around in the vehicle, hopefully preventing head, neck, and back injuries.
We can't even begin to tell you how many times we have witnessed tools, personal effects, and the contents of coolers scatter across the trail after a flop-on-the-side or a rollover. It only takes a minute or two to strap everything down. This should be common practice because it plays an important part in safety. We've seen folks get clobbered by the flying contents of a vehicle, and it does smart.
Sometimes it's the easiest parts of a trail that throw a vehicle on its side or roll it over. That's why you prepare for the worst. Passengers and driver should always keep their hands, legs, and head inside the vehicle. Your extremities could be crushed in a split second. We know a guy who lost an ear while rounding a tree. This wasn't a pretty sight. There's also no way a well-placed hand or leg is going to keep an off-camber rig from rolling into a tree or rock, so don't think you can single-handedly hold up your rig. A little body damage to your 4x4 hurts far less than a broken arm or leg.