Are you a considerate dirt road driver?

The unwritten rules that govern dirt-road driving are not just there to ensure everyone gets along, but for safety reasons too. Here are 3 rules all overlanders should follow. By Nell Hofmeyr

1. Don’t contribute to corrugation

Encountering badly corrugated roads is inevitable in Africa, but you can do your part to minimise their impact and not make a bumpy ride worse. Remember, the roads are there to be shared, so you owe it to your fellow overlanders – not to mention the environment – to leave them intact.

The three main culprits that contribute to corrugation are speeding, back wheels of 2×4 cars spinning and inflated tyre pressure. Speeding is discouraged for a number of reasons, not least because it puts you, other drivers and wild animals at risk. However, driving too fast also results in road damage over time, as does wheel spinning.

Inflated tyre pressure aggravates the formation of corrugations, so be sure to lower it before setting off. Reducing pressure also helps with traction on gravel and sand, plus it turns your tyres into shock absorbers – guaranteeing you a smoother ride overall. How much you should lower the pressure by will depend on your vehicle’s type and weight.

Driving on a gravel road
The golden rule on dirt roads is to follow the same etiquette that you would expect of others. Picture by Karin Theron.

2. Drive in others’ tracks to prevent erosion

A respectful driver aims to tread lightly. That means chucking the rubbish in the bin, leaving your campsite spotless and, yes, sticking to well-worn tracks at every turn. If everyone abandoned the rulebook and went off-road in search of new ground, the environmental damage would be exponential.

Keep your eco-footprint to a minimum and heed the following guidelines:

• Don’t drive over vegetation.
• Only cross streams at points where it intersects with the trail.
• Drive over obstacles instead of around them to prevent widening the trail.
• Respect all signs and barriers.

Also read: Advice on driving Africa’s difficult roads 

3. Limit your dust

You’re driving along the trail, minding your own business, only to find yourself trapped in the remnants of a dust cloud left by the 4×4 zipping past. Now you can’t see a thing and it’s filtered through the vents, clogging up the air. Sound familiar?

Dust is unavoidable, especially on dry gravel roads, but there are tried and true methods to control how much of it your vehicle kicks up. It’s simple: drive slowly and don’t drive aggressively. Be sure to slow down further when you pass pedestrians and other vehicles to minimise the dust clouds.

What rules would you add to this list? Tell us in the comments.

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