How to drive safely in the desert

The sprawling 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, be it with friends and family, or as a convoy with one of the many off-road clubs in the country.

The final episode in its Desert Driving Tips series, Ford Middle East covers the hot topic of ‘pacing and spacing’, highlighting the importance of these two characteristics when driving as a group for a more relaxed and enjoyable drive.

“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.”

Ford Ranger

Determining 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. Should you drive too close to the car in front, you run the risk of getting stuck too or worse, ploughing into the back of them.

“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 - 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 you want to carry with depend on the type of sand you’re driving over. Softer sand requires higher speed and momentum to avoid getting bogged down, while harder sand can be conquered at lower speeds.

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