With rights come responsibilities
Lately my mind keeps turning over a few thoughts that won’t go away. About the time my peace of mind returns things get stirred up again.Knowing what sets me off doesn’t help. My tolerance level for television and what it has to offer is already at an all-time low. So you would think that I wouldn’t be bothered by stupid commercials.The fact is, little of my time is spent watching TV. But when I see one of the many sports utility commercials, I’m appalled.It makes no difference what brand of SUV is being pitched. All manufacturers seem hell-bent on leaving the same impression: “You can take this vehicle anywhere.”The ad shows a breathtaking backdrop of Mother Nature’s best scenery. Then, out of nowhere, comes a maniac at the wheel driving a 6,000-pound hunk of metal through a backcountry stream like he was on an assault mission.Though not shown on the screen, I can see in my own mind little creatures franticly fleeing for their lives.Or better yet, my favorite spot is the mindless mud scene. Mud is flung in every direction as the driver careens recklessly toward no particular destination except perhaps the next fragile wetlands.The message is not the least bit subtle but the seed that it plants is.No, there is nothing wrong with possessing enough money to buy freedom to have fun in the backcountry with your SUV. This is despite the fact that the vast majority of four-wheel vehicles never leave the pavement.The problem comes from the idea that begins to germinate and grow larger in the buyer’s mind. Here it is: “It’s my right to drive anywhere I want, anyplace I can.”Last time I checked, driving was a privilege, not a right. But we’re not going there today. Let’s assume it’s your right to drive your four-wheel-drive vehicle into America’s great outdoors in the pursuit of happiness.With rights come responsibilities. Where is the manufacturer’s responsibility to advise the buyer to “tread lightly,” “leave no trace?” Where is the message to stay on designated roads and trails while driving on our public lands?Yes, the vast majority of jeepers and four-wheelers are responsible users of public land. There are clubs with devoted members who contribute time and money to help maintain jeep roads in the backcountry for all to enjoy.The issue of being responsible with four-wheel drive vehicles is an extremely personal one.Two of my four daughters have come close to being killed in small sports vehicles. One of my girls had a tire blowout which caused the car to overturn and roll. Another was a passenger when the driver, after pulling back onto pavement, lost control and rolled the vehicle. She suffered a concussion.I know, as both DeAnza and Shandra do, that only a small band of cloth fastened tightly around their waists saved their lives.Taking responsibility for using sport vehicles safely and sanely could save your life … and our public lands.Writing from 25 years of experience in federal land management agencies, Bill Kight, of Glenwood Springs, shares his stories and concerns with readers every other week.
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