Club 4X4 Safety Series: Sand Flags

2G0A2368Sometimes the simplest things can be the most profound – profound thought right? And with that horrible dad joke behind us, we can continue.

In writing this article, I tried to remember when I first would have seen or been exposed to a sand flag. I think I’ve mentioned it before, growing up, my father used to take us camping in his old HZ Panelvan (I don’t like to think of it in the other colloquialisms used to define these old workhorses!). As such, most of our touring work was limited to sealed or basic unsealed roads – often setting up camp at holiday parks up and down the coast of New South Wales. The bright yellow beast had neither a bullbar nor a sand flag.

What did, was one of my first every remote control cars – a buggy unit of some description, the antenna housed in a stiff plastic tube with a flag on the top. My favourite toy, until I lost it down a drain and never saw it again. The sand flag on my RC car helped me pick it up (much to the disdain of my old-man), see where it was when it was behind something and of course served the practical purpose of allowing maximum access for the radio receiver to my handheld remote.

The features that the “sand flag” served on my childhood toy is not dissimilar to the purpose it holds on my newer, bigger and more expensive toy – Club 4X4’s #MobileHQGU. Having a sand flag attached to your bullbar is an important safety measure when doing any driving in or around dunes. Like the little radio controlled toy, the core benefit was to maximise others ability to see you coming when cresting a dune and vice-versa. Anyone who has done some driving through large dunes like those you will find in the Simpson, will probably recall that second before your crest – thinking about whether there is someone on the other side or not. There are obviously radio based conventions that you can adhere too to let oncoming traffic know of your approach, but an easy and potentially lifesaving mechanical solution is the good old sand flag.

I bought mine many years ago from my local ARB store and fitted it relatively quickly – securing the snap fitting (kind of like the type used in compressor connections) to the spare mounting hole on my bullbar. The flag itself comes in 3 pieces, allowing you to control the height you want to display the flag at and making storage easy. Setting it at the maximum height is always advisable – the way I see it if you’re wanting to be seen why restrict the height, right?

When not in use, the thin fibreglass design means it is easy to store and doesn’t add much weight to your setup. I have read various threads in different places where people have manufactured their own out of things like PVC pipe, fishing rods (ha! multi-purposing!) and other materials, which is fine as long as the general requirements are maintained.

Whilst we don’t aim to be the purveyors of the law here, some quick research showed that the only states/parks with a requirement for sand flags were South Australia and the Simpson Desert. Basically the law  requires a fluorescent coloured flag a minimum of 300x290mm atop a pole that is a minimum of 3.5m from the ground for 4X4 vehicles where the flag is mounted to the bullbar. If you prefer to mount your flag on the roof, it needs to be a minimum of 2 tall from the mounting position.

Whilst you can be safe in the knowledge that with Club 4X4 you will be covered should you have a claimable event while cresting a dune in the Simpson; and you can call on our Off-Road Recovery Cover  should you breakdown or become bogged where your roadside assistance wouldn’t dream of driving their shiny tilt trays; it still pays to be responsible when considering safety before airing down. Whether covered or not, a collision in these circumstances will often result in injury or damage that may require attention before continuing your journey; both of these are the last thing anyone wants when on holidays.

Happy (and safe) Touring

Kalen

 

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Comments 8

  1. The best sand flag I have had was a 7 metre long, telescopic squid pole. I had a collection of bright tinsel and pink streamers on the end. I used it for a Simpson crossing and it was visible for kilometres. People branded it “Priscilla”. The number of vehicles with no sand flag and no UHF – or one tuned to the wrong channel – was scary. The orange flags blend in nicely with the sand…

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  2. Hey, so to clarify, if I don’t use a sand flag in the Simpson (which you say is required by law?), you will cover me anyway? Cheeky post, or just curious… thanks 🙂

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  3. My first encounter with sand flags happened on the Simpson in 1993, ( had a sand flag) but the ranger coming the other way didn’t. We didn’t hit but it was VERY close.

    One of the things that annoy me nowadays is the number of people who mount the “required by law” flag on the back of the 4X4, might as well not have one.

    By the way it is mandatory to have a sand flag when on the Portland Dunes, (Vic).

  4. Is Steve saying the flag is useless ?????.
    I’ve done seven crossings, all routes, all directions and I have no trouble seeing flags…..but then I have good vision.

  5. A weasel goes into a milk bar and asks for a drink, The owner asks what drink would you like. Pop goes the weasel.

    On a recent trip through the Simpson from Mt Dare to Birdsville, we were crossing a dune on the QAA about 70 km west of Birdsville and as we crested, we came across a sole backpacker in a toyota ute with no UHF and no sand flag coming up the eastern side, a quick manoeuvre to the left and just a little bit of swearing, we managed to miss this idiot. Unfortunately all I got was a partial number plate, otherwise I would have reported him to the police in town. Quite a few others that bought 2 mtr flags in Birdsville from the roadhouse were only mounting them on the bull bar and not the roof which were next to useless until you were right on top of them. Luckily they all had UHF’s and we could gauge their distance from them.

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