Ford’s Desert Driving Tips, Episode 4: Driving Safely in the Desert
The wide-open desert is the perfect playground for off-roaders but there are a few things to bear in mind when venturing into the dunes as part of a group for the first time.
Pacing and spacing is the subject of the fourth episode of Ford’s Desert Driving Tips series – and mastering both will make your desert drive a lot more relaxed and enjoyable.
“The spacing in front of you and behind you is important,” explains Mike Chavez, series co-host and Ford Middle East Product Development Lead Technologist. “You can fall back and catch up, but maintain a safe distance between your car and the vehicle in front.”
Determining just how much space to leave will come with experience – but a good rule of thumb is to ensure you can stop safely should the car up ahead suddenly stop moving, or get stuck. Crowding the car in front will often limit your options and may even lead to you getting stuck too.
There are points at which you need to remain vigilant, particularly when the convoy slows to clear an obstacle or the crest of a dune. Be prepared to stop and wait for your turn.
“If it’s too crowded, there’s a possibility of coming over a dune and seeing that someone hasn’t cleared it fully,” Chavez explained. “Not all dunes are flat on the other side – some of them are quite big and you want to allow time for the car up ahead to get clear. You’re going to want to watch their flag or watch to see where it pops up again. Once you see the flag again, that gives you a good idea where they are, and that they’re safely out of the way and that you can proceed forward and not have any incidents.”
While it’s tempting to hit the dunes with lots of speed and enthusiasm, it’s best to take a measured approach to avoid any damage to your car.
“The speed that you will want to maintain will vary on how soft the sand is: the softer, the sand, the more momentum you’ll have to carry to help keep the car moving forward without it bogging down and getting stuck. If you’re on firmer sand, you can slow those speeds down and enjoy the view and have a safe and enjoyable time out here in the desert,” Chavez said.