Rules of the Off Road

Off Road

Beach driving regulations vary widely, so familiarize yourself with the rules in the coastal section where you drive. When you purchase your permit, you will no doubt receive written rules; if not, ask questions. Typical safety requirements include a tire pressure gauge, a jack and a board at least a foot square and an inch thick to support it, first-aid kit, flares, fire extinguisher, tow rope and shovel. Some beaches require a portable toilet as well.

Some basic beach driving rules apply wherever you fish and will make your journeys over the sand more enjoyable and hassle-free.

* Use "High Range 4WD" for virtually all driving. Try low range only if stuck or in very heavy sand.

* Drive slowly and steadily and don't rev your engine; it's a sure way to dig yourself in.

* Drive in the tracks of other vehicles whenever possible.

* Don't fight the steering wheel; use a light grip and let the car seek its own course through the tracks.

* When you stop, use as little brake pressure as possible. Take your foot off the accelerator and let the sand do most of the braking to avoid lurching your vehicle into a depression.

* Make sure to especially avoid very hard or sharp turns. With low tire pressure, you can easily pop the bead (have the tire roll out of the rim). On the beach, this presents a major problem.

* As a rule of thumb, stay above the high-water line. Sometimes you can run the harder sand near the water line but know the area and the tides thoroughly before you do; soft spots can suck you in, and if the tide is coming, you may not have time to get out of harm's way.

* Should you get stuck, fill in any holes you cause. These "tank traps" can cause damage and injury.

* Never enter the beach without at least a half-tank of gas; mileage is far lower on the sand than on the roadway. You also might want to check your insurance for off-road coverage - it can be very costly to get towed off the beach.

Common Courtesy

* Don't park in the tracks, causing others to detour around you.

* Enter and exit beaches only via proper access roads.

* Keep your vehicle at least 15 feet from dunes and dune fences. Their network of roots is vital for keeping the beaches stable. They actually anchor barrier islands, so steep fines for violations are in order on most beaches.

* Use low-beam headlights at night. Beach jockeys argue this point, but animals and people, believe it or not, actually will sleep in tire tracks on the beach.

* Make every effort not to shine your lights on the water where anglers are fishing. This is a point of great contention among surf anglers.

* Some beaches ask you to park parallel to the water and some allow perpendicular parking. Find out the local regulations or customs.

* Vehicles with the water on the right have the right of way. Those with the sand dunes on the right should give way.

* Like the boating code of ethics, it's also part of the beach anglers' code to lend assistance to anyone in trouble.