The Dangers of Beach Driving


Tire Tracks on the Beach

Some friends recently decided a fun day with their doggies at a local Azuero beach would be just the ticket. Alas, while they were there, whatever Imp is in charge of seducing the innocent into driving on the beach waved his pheromones under their noses and lured them onto the sand. For a while, all was well. The tide was way out, the sand was damp and packed firmly, and they rolled along quite nicely until they found what looked like a great stopping place.

So they proceeded to unload the doggies and let them romp, and themselves strolled happily along the edges of the waves looking for seashells and such.

Then it was time to go. The dogs were finally tired, the tide had changed, and the ladies had enough seashells. They piled into the car. The driver started it and gave it some gas. But instead of moving obediently forward, the car just sat there as the wheels spun in place. The sand, you see, had dried a bit from the warmth of the wheels and the nearby undercarriage, as well as from the heat of the afternoon. And as it dried, it loosened.

The Imp-In-Charge rubbed his hands together and grinned happily.

Soon, they were buried to the floorboard. Four ladies, over sixty, with various ailments of the joints, were not the ideal group to get out and push. Fortunately, there were local fishermen nearby. These strong men took over, dug the car out and pushed it up the beach and back onto the road.

She was cautioned to make sure to wash her undercarriage and wheel wells thoroughly, as both the sand and the salt are major enemies of metal.

So there you have three reasons why it’s not a good idea to drive on the beach – sand, salt and getting stuck.

Are there others? Alas, yes, there are. Several.

The sea turtle population in Panama is in danger of extinction. Beach driving helps that potential along in several ways. The ruts created by tire tracks often make it either more difficult or impossible for hatchlings to find their way to the sea.

When cars drive on sand, it compacts. This makes it more difficult for turtles to nest at all. After dark, it only gets worse, with the vehicle lights and movement reducing habitat suitability and discouraging females from nesting. If an existing nest is run over, often the tiny hatchlings cannot dig themselves out of the compacted sand.

Want more? Beach driving increases erosion, especially during high tides or on narrow beaches in the fore-dune area.

What is the moral of this story? I think you already know. If you want to be counted with the Good Guys, keep your car or truck off the beach.