Off-road enthusiasts are an interesting lot. There are those who spend every weekend on something loosely resembling a road, testing the limits of their vehicles and their own driving skills. They intentionally put themselves in challenging and dangerous situations for the thrill. Sometimes, things don’t go as planned and people get hurt or killed. Is there a point where the authorities should take control and close a trail to off-road vehicles?
That’s the conversation currently being had in Telluride, Colorado where Black Bear Pass is in danger of being closed. It looks to be an amazing trail, but not one for those without serious off-road chops and the cajones to match. It’s the drops that will get you with 900 foot tumbles that could end your trip once and for all.
The trail was cut in the 1800s by prospectors looking for gold and once boasted a sign reading, “Telluride-City of Gold. You don’t have to be crazy to drive this road, but it helps. Jeeps only.” It looks challenging and incredibly beautiful, and the local authorities are none too happy with the time it takes to rescue people.
According to Expedition Portal, San Miguel County Sheriff Bill Masters wants it closed down for good.
“At this time of year we are seeing hundreds of vehicles traveling on this extremely hazardous terrain. It’s not safe, and it’s not safe for our community when all of our resources are tied up for an incident like this.”
A recent accident involved a couple from Florida who managed to flip their vehicle down an embankment. They were okay, but the accident required over 20 first responders and took about 90 minutes of their time. It was dangerous and expensive for everyone involved.
So, what’s the solution?
Closing the road is definitely one angle to take, but that won’t solve the problem of how to handle off-road drivers who get in over their heads and need help. Sure, it’s their choice to take the risk, but they’re also putting those who come to help at risk and costing towns a lot of money.
As Jalopnik points out, there are solutions that don’t penalize everyone for the actions of a few. Towns could charge a fee or require a class before undertaking more challenging trails. If someone drove without the paying the fee or getting the required instruction, then they could be held responsible for rescue costs. Towns could even straight-up charge for any off-road rescue for everyone.
It might discourage those who really shouldn’t be on challenging trails in the first place and it would keep towns from shelling out money for off-road rescues. Fewer calls would also mean fewer times that first resonders would need to risk their own safety to save those involved in accidents.
What do you think? Should states and towns be able to close popular off-road trails they deem too dangerous, or should they remain open for those who are prepared to make the trek?