The most common advice given to any off-road recreationist is "Stay the Trail." We all know there are valid environmental reasons for doing so - by staying on the trail you minimize erosion, prevent vegetation damage, and avoid disturbing wildlife. What you may not realize, however, is that there are personal and financial benefits to following marked trails, even if your off-highway vehicle (OHV) is one of the most rugged models. Staying on the trail can not only save the green in your environment, it can save the green in your wallet as well.
Here are seven reasons why:
1. Less damage to your vehicle. When you drive off of the trail you are exposing your vehicle to many hidden hazards. Vehicles are much more likely to be crippled by undercarriage damage, severe body damage, or water damage when not on a trail.
2. Avoid fines and lawsuits. While liability insurance is available for OHVs, it cannot protect you if you are driving in illegal areas. Remaining on designated trails will also save you from hefty fines and possible lawsuits if damage to the surrounding environment is significant.
3. Avoid running out of fuel. Planning a trip using mapped trails can be simple. But once you leave the trail, you may not be able to plan exactly how far you can go before you have to go back. Running out of fuel in the middle of the wilderness is far different than getting stuck on a trail where others are traveling.
4. Avoid getting stuck. Mud patches and stream crossings are almost always manageable on a designated trail, especially if you stick to dry trails and ride only during open seasons. Beyond these boundaries, however, it is easy to miscalculate the depth or strength of water and mud. Heavy brush, steep hills, thin ice, and rugged rocks also strand hundreds of motorists every year. Rescue can be difficult, embarrassing and expensive.
5. Not losing your vehicle. OHV heaven has claimed many vehicles as a consequence of irresponsible riding. That creek may look like an interesting challenge, and may remind you of a popular commercial, but common sense must over-ride urges to conquer nature.
6. Keep those auto insurance quotes low. Whether you’re driving a street-legal SUV that is covered by a standard auto insurance policy, or a true OHV with special insurance designated for such vehicles, staying on the trail, and avoiding all the pitfalls that come with unknown territory, means fewer claims. And this will keep your insurance premiums from rising too high.
7. Hospital bills. Injuries with OHVs happen every day. Save yourself from grief, pain and high medical costs by sticking to designated routes and not speeding.
Staying on the trail may seem less challenging than conquering untouched territory, but the reality is that SUVs and OHVs are not children’s toys—they are expensive, dangerous machines. If environmental protection isn’t enough to keep you on designated paths, chances are the danger to your finances is.
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