Offer a Helping Hand

Tires are the number one problem on backroads and trails. – Photo by Denis Callimanis

Something just didn’t seem right.

We were westbound on the Red Rock Randsburg highway late one Sunday afternoon in July. Another hot day in the Mojave Desert – about 100 degrees.

Just as I crested the top of a hill, I could see a disabled vehicle on the right shoulder about a quarter mile down. That by itself is not unusual; you drive a lot, and you’re bound to encounter a disabled vehicle on occasion. I counted about a dozen vehicles drive past, and wondered, Won’t someone stop?

As I approached, I glanced over. Mom was in the vehicle, and a couple kids were milling around in the ditch. All appeared to be OK. But I sensed that I should take a closer look. We pulled over.

We discovered that the car had conked out, their cell phone was out of range, and they didn’t have any water.

After providing bottles of water, a couple buddies and I spent about 20 minutes trying to start the car. No luck. Considering the conditions, I drove the family to the nearest convenience store. There they could get food and water, and rest for a bit in the air conditioning. We loaned them a cell phone so they could call friends to pick them up at the store and make arrangements for the car.

Car trouble can happen anywhere, as you know. A breakdown in an urban setting is usually just an inconvenience. Help is often just one phone call and a relatively short wait away.

Off road, it’s a different matter. The cell phone could be out of range, and help is much farther away. Compounding the issue is that the family may not have packed properly for the trip. It’s a recipe for a disaster, and one that could be life threatening.

Here is where compassionate, responsible four wheelers shine. A brief stop can make a big difference in someone’s life.

In the end, the help we provided was simple – water, a ride in the direction we were going anyway (but also the closest store), and the use of the cell phone. But of course, being guys, we always think we can fix the car! So that 20 minutes was on us.

Your options for helping stranded vehicles

As a four-wheeler, you are taught – and follow – many important principles. Chief among those are:

  • Let someone know where you’re going and when you’ll be back.
  • Always go with another vehicle.

Another principle that I feel is important is to offer assistance when you can. It can be something as simple as asking if the person is OK. Not every vehicle off the trail is in dire straits. Rarely will you encounter a need for medical attention. But you don’t know until you stop.

Keep in mind that you have a responsibility to your group. You’re most likely on a schedule. Even so, take a few moments to assess the situation:

  • Any injuries? How serious? Offer first aid as best you can.
  • Is the vehicle disabled? If so, can you help with repairs?
  • Take note of their food and water supplies. Offer water or snacks if helpful.
  • Determine if they’re able to communicate. Use your phone (cell or satellite) or ham radio.
  • Assist with repairs if you’re able to.
  • If you feel comfortable, lend a tool or phone. You can be on your way while that group tends to its issue.
  • Your schedule and group size permitting, perhaps one of your vehicles can transport the stranded driver to a place where they can get help.

In rare cases you’ll have to abandon the vehicle. Learn what you need to do in this article.

The bottom line is: help out when you can. You have to feel comfortable, but you can always at least stop.

Be prepared for those who are not

I mentioned two important principles above. Here is another:

The more remote and more difficult the trail will be, the more stuff you should pack.

Sadly, too many people just don’t plan well. They don’t bring enough basic supplies. They wing it while on the trail. And many times don’t consult a map or check the weather forecast before setting out. Before they know it, they’re in a really tough situation.

A case in point. One November evening about 9 p.m. while camping in the EL Paso Mountains, a quad wandered in. In it were four very worried adults. They had no food, water or jackets. They didn’t know where they were, and didn’t know how to get back to where they needed to be. Unaccustomed to driving off road at night, they were now disoriented and lost. It’s a good thing they spotted our campfire.

We fed the group and provided some water. They left with a map and directions to the shortest route out.

Fortunately, these incidents are rare. But you will encounter trail users who are, or appear to be, in need. At a minimum ask, “Is everything OK?” Lend a hand if you are able to.

Helping others is as basic a human trait as there is. Offering assistance in urban or highway settings, sadly, can be hazardous. Which is why drivers are reluctant to stop. It’s different off road. The next time you see what appears to be a hiker, mountain bike, motorcycle, quad or vehicle in distress, stop and inquire. After all, isn’t that what you’d like if you were in need?

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Did you miss the previous article?


Some Upcoming Events (click on the link for details)

Eureka Sand Dunes framed by Last Chance Mountain Range

May 2018
May 05 Getting Started Off-Road – LA area
May 06 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road – LA area
May 12 Tire Repair & Hi-lift mini clinic – Hawthorne CA

June 2018
June 09 Getting Started Off-Road – LA area
June 10 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road – LA area

June 16 Starting Rock Crawling

July 2018
July 14 Getting Started Off-Road – LA area
July 15 Day 2 Getting Started Off-Road – LA area

July 21 Starting Rock Crawling


All colors are back in stock!

To celebrate, we will send a Winch Recovery DVD with every Bandana order for a limited time. Limit 1 DVD per order.

The Bandana layout follows the “Vehicle Recovery Plan” with pathways to more detail. A unique section of the Bandana, gives the steps for a “Winch Rigging Check: Walk through” so that you verify every element of the rigging before you commit to the pull. Stuff this in your recovery kit and you will always be ready. Warning – the Bandana is not a substitute for proper training and use of quality equipment used within the bounds of their safe working load. We advise you to use the information provided in the Winching Recovery Bandana at your own risk. We cannot control the quality and specifications of the equipment used and the methods actually employed. The original press release with larger graphics is on the website.


73 KI6FHA
I hope to see you on the trails!
Tom Severin, President Badlands Off Road Adventures, Inc.
4-Wheel Drive School
310-613-5473
www.4x4training.com
Make it Fun. Keep it Safe.


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Copyright 2018, Badlands Off-Road Adventures, Inc.

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