Spotting Etiquette
A Few Thoughts By Ray Barth

While I was out at Shiloh last weekend, I began thinking about something that is highly over looked on a regular basis.  That is spotting.  Most people do not take the time to think about what it takes to be a spotter and what it takes to have a spotter.  What I'm going to do is list a few points that should be considered by a wood-be spotter, a driver, and a spectator. 

The Spotter 

1.  Never be afraid to turn someone down.  Even though a driver has the final say so, don't ever feel obligated to be a spotter.  If your not comfortable spotting for someone, DON'T.  You'll only put yourself and the driver in danger. 

2.  Use hand signals.  This is a big problem with spotters.  They always want to talk to the driver.  However, under most circumstances, the driver cannot hear clearly.  Put yourself into a position that gives yourself a good over sight of the obstacle, is safe, and that the driver can see your hands.  If you do feel compelled to speak to the driver, walk up to him/her.  If you cannot do that and you feel the need to direct them to the right or left, always remember to guide them from the driverís perspective.  Hence, if you want them to go right, tell them to go according to the driver's right.  An easy way to remember, if you get confused (and everyone does), the driver sits on the left side of the vehicle.  Use hand signals that are easy to understand.  Typically, one hand will do the job. 

3.  Keep the driver informed.  When your spotting, let the driver know how far they are to a drop or rock.  Use hand signals that will give a driver a good understanding.  For instance, use two hands to describe the distance.  As long as momentum is not a factor, walk up to the driver and explain what it is they are going to do or have done.  Remember, the driver can't see what you can. 

4.  Ask for assistance by your peers or someone you trust.  A spotter can only be in one place at a time.  If you know and trust someone behind the vehicle that you are in front of, communicate with them.  Ask them what you can't see and if there are hazards.   

5.  Know when to call for a strap.  Not everyone will conquer an obstacle under there own power.  If you feel that the driver is in need of a strap to avoid damage, by all means suggest it.  If the driver decides against it, then it's in there hands.  Again, use good judgment. 

6.  NEVER rush! 

7.  Safety, safety, safety!!!!!  I could go on for hours on this.  Use good judgment.  If you don't feel comfortable, see #1. 

8.  If asked not to spot, or if someone else is asked to spot by the driver, respect the driver and get out of the way.  Don't take it as an insult.  The driver always has the last word.  You would want the same if you were behind the wheel.

The Driver

1.  Never be afraid to turn someone down.  Sound familiar?  It should!  The bottom line is your the driver, your responsible for what happens to your rig.  If you don't trust a spotter in front of you (or behind), then tell them!!!!  Use a little tact, but in the end, use a spotter you trust.

2.  Trust your spotter.  Like I've said earlier, your spotter can see things that you can't.  You may feel like that rig is about to tumble over, but from the outside the perspective is quite different.  They will know your limitations. 

3.  Talk to your spotter.  If you don't feel informed, call your spotter to you.  Find out what it is your going to be doing, if your not comfortable, back off! 

4.  Know your limitations.  No matter how much razzing you receive, it's not worth the damage you may inflict on your rig, yourself, or your buddies.  If you know you can't do something, DON'T. 

5.  When instructed to turn, do so.  Don't turn the wheel, and then straighten out.  Do EXACTLY as the spotter instructs.  Nothing more. 

6.  If the person you ask to spot refuses, ask someone else.  Don't ever pressure someone into spotting you. 

7.  Try to use the same spotter(s).  The more you stay with one or two spotters, the better.  The spotter(s) will become familiar with your rig and your style of driving.  Likewise, you will become familiar with your spotter(s).  This all goes towards building a strong trust and creating a team that will work together.  If you make modifications to your rig, and your spotter is not aware, inform them so they can expect the differences.

The Spectator

1.  ONLY ONE SPOTTER AT A TIME!!!!!!!  If you feel the need to give your opinion, do so to the spotter.  Do not instruct the driver!!!!  Walk up to the spotter and show them what it is you feel so compelled to express.  You may or may not be right, but do not confuse the driver. 

2.  Stay out of the way.  Countless times I've see people try to get as close as possible to a rig that is working an obstacle.  All you do is put yourself and others in danger.  If you get run over, it's your own damn fault! 

3.  Take notes.  If youíre next, observe what is going on so you don't make mistakes behind the wheel. 

These are just a few of the things off the top of my head.  It all boils down to common sense.  This is not by any means a complete list or guide to spotting.  Just some simple observations.  Just remember, the spotter is an extremely important part of wheeling and is a position that should not be taken lightly.  With the help of a good spotter and an observant driver, nearly all obstacles can be conquered. 

Ray Barth