January 11, 2016

A Drive Toward Safety

You're a good driver with a proven safety record. Why should you worry about driving on forest roads; they can't be that much different, right? The truth is driving on forest roads presents many safety issues not normally found on public roads and highways. Most forest roads in both national forests and industrial lands are winding, single-lane roads with occasional turnouts and are surfaced with rock and gravel. In addition, most roads have special vandal-resistance gates that have their own hazards associated with them.

General Driving Practices

Drive at a speed where you can stop in half the distance that you can see down the road. Because these are single-lane roads, you may need to stop quickly for someone else who may be entering the road from a blind corner. For most forest roads under good conditions the maximum safe speed is 15-20 MPH.

Stay to the right side of the road around blind corners and make it a regular practice to swing wide around these corners in case someone is coming the other way. These roads were built for limited traffic volumes. Today there are far more vehicles driving in remote parts of the forest.

Pay attention to the road as far ahead as you can. Notice if there are any vehicles there that you will be meeting soon. A good practice on dry days is to look ahead for dust indicating another vehicle coming toward you.

Some other safe practices include the following:

  • When driving on forest roads always have headlights on to help others see your vehicle approaching.
  • All passengers must wear seat belts when the vehicle is moving.
  • Every vehicle should have a first-aid kit and all persons in the vehicle should know where the kit is located.
  • On forest roads, trucks, lowboys, graders, and emergency vehicles have the right-of-way. Whenever you need to move to the right remember to stay out of the ditches and be especially careful of soft shoulders which are typical on forest roads.

Forest Vehicles

You drive your vehicle every day but you may not be using your personal vehicle while on a forest road. Know the vehicle you are driving equally as well. It may be larger in size and/or engine power and likely have four-wheel-drive. If it does have four-wheel-drive, make sure you know how to engage and disengage it before you need to use it. Some vehicles are automatic and require nothing more than a simple button push from the cab while others are fully manual and require you to manually lock the wheel hubs from the outside. If you are alone and need to do this, turn off the engine and put the vehicle in park before getting out to lock the hubs.

Active Forest Operations

If you are visiting or come upon an active forest operation you should always consider the following:

  • Stay well away (300 feet or more) from equipment until the operator acknowledges your presence, stops the machine, and motions for you to proceed.
  • If you come across steel cables on the ground across the roads, do not drive over them until you have been instructed to do so. Many of these are "live" lines and could move at any moment.
  • Be aware that the road surface around active operations may be quite soft and disturbed. Drive carefully around these.