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Spotter Guidelines
written by Robert Gee

Off-road driving can be a dangerous sport, improper use of equipment and manpower can cause harm to others as well as the environment. While driving off road drivers must leverage tools they have to overcome obstacles, in this article we will discuss proper spotting technique. Clear communication and good spotting creates a controlled environment which is as safe as possible.

Who is the Spotter
On the trail there will be many people yelling directions, engine noise and other obstacles. It is important for the driver to pick one spotter. Good spotters know that there should at most be one, and if they are not it will stand aside. Before beginning to spot anyone a spotter should find out if the driver wants him/her to be a spotter.

It is important that the driver and spotter have an agreement on what signals to use. Be sure that everyone is aware of the signals you are going to use before the vehicle enters the obstacle.

Driver Autonomy
Picking a line is always the driver’s decision, it may be open for discussion with the spotter but ultimately comes down to the driver. The spotter’s job is simply to guide the driver down his or her chosen route, cautioning the driver if they are off track or hitting something.

If the driver feels that they are not traveling down the line he wanted, or wants to take a different line, the spotter should go over and have a face to face conversation about it with the driver. With background noise and many people giving directions it may get confusing or tense for the driver, this is when bad things happen. The spotter should simply go over and have a calm face to face conversation with the driver, to discuss further action.

The Driver must trust the moves his or her spotter is issuing, if this is not the case the spotter should be replaced. A good spotter should be able to see this happening and suggest a replacement.

While spotting it is important to think about your own safety as well as that of the driver. Never jump on the vehicle to try and balance it when it is at a severe angle, if assistance is required you can attach a strap to the roll cage and have someone hold it. This works well as you can easily let go of a strap in the case of a rollover.

If rock stacking is required, this is for weenies anyway, wear gloves and make sure the driver knows not to move the vehicle. Stay away from areas which the vehicle could slide or roll to.

When a vehicle becomes stuck the spotter is often the closest and pulls the winch cable. Winching is very dangerous and should have its own guidelines. It is important to wear gloves when handling winch cable, wire burrs often stick out and can slice into hands fingers arms etc. Always use a tree saver rated higher than the winch, with a D-Ring, not winch hook through it. Always use a weight on the line to drop the cable to the ground in the event of breakage. Have everyone including yourself stand at least the length the cable is out away. Stand clear of the cable at all times when the winch is in operation or the line has tension on it.

Sources: Dan Stra’s writeup from NEWJO’s Spotter rules





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