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Don't use tragedy to justify off-road regs

A terrible crash during an off-road race in Johnson Valley that killed eight people last weekend has resulted in an announcement by the Bureau of Land Management that they are reviewing their safety provisions for off-roading events in the state.

We urge the BLM to think very carefully and really listen to what off-roaders are saying before considering adding any potentially unnecessary regulations.

The High Desert made national news when a truck driven by Brett M. Sloppy rolled into spectators gathered next to a race in Soggy Dry Lake, east of Lucerne Valley, Saturday night. Eight people died.

Investigation is showing that the deaths were likely a result of spectators insisting on being closer to the race track than is safe. CHP officials said Sloppy is unlikely to face any charges due to the crash.

The BLM has responded that the race organizer, Mojave Desert Racing, was responsible for ensuring safety on the course per its permit with the agency to have the race. MDR has had legal issues in the past, paying $145,000 in a settlement after a spectator injury during a race in 1998 here near Barstow.

It may appear to some that the BLM is trying to “cover” itself by laying the blame for safety on the organizer. But in our opinion, it is ultimately the race organizers, the racers, and the spectators themselves responsible for race safety. This is how it should be.

Our fear is that the government will insist on new safety regulations that not even the off-roading community — devastated by this disaster — thinks are necessary.

That’s been the way of the nation for years now. Every disaster is a result of not enough regulation. Self-responsibility is some sort of radical libertarian philosophy. But interviews with off-roading enthusiasts make it clear they know exactly the risks they’re taking when they stake out viewing positions that are unsafe. They want to be close to the action. They know that this can be dangerous.

People are responsible for their own lives. The government can’t be relied on to protect people from everything, particularly if they deliberately choose to engage in risky behavior. We don’t see how exactly the BLM can police this problem unless they hire a significant number of people to oversee the races, or, as some off-roaders fear, simply start canceling them.

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