One cannot talk about thrillcraft without discussing the culture that spawns this kind of behavior. The culture is one that glorifies machines and human dominance of nature. It is a culture estranged from the natural world. The speed, noise, and air pollution associated with these machines blurs, obscures, and hides natural beauty and prevents appreciation. Worse yet, it destroys the land and jeopardizes the enjoyment of our public heritage by others.
A review of any of the ads for major thrillcraft machines demonstrates this attitude. You will find ads admonishing thrillcraft owners to use “brute—as in force,” and that “going to the stand for coconut smoothies is for sillies,” and other messages that imply that anyone who doesn’t tear up the land, and “conquer” the obstacles is somehow less manly.
Reckless and Rude Behavior
Reckless and rude behavior is common among thrillcraft users. Speed combined with reckless behavior is prevalent among thrillcraft users—since that is one way you get thrills—by pushing the limits. Though not all thrillcraft users are inconsiderate, there are plenty who see nothing wrong with loud noise, racing close to other people, and creating a hazard for other public lands users. One ad for thrillcraft suggests users “thumb their throttle at the world.”
Because of this reckless behavior, thrillcraft are often involved in serious injury. Nation-wide, jet skis make up only 9% of all motorized watercraft, but account for 46% of all injuries.
Trespass and Violation of Route Closures
A major problem endemic with thrillcraft culture is the notion that one straddles these machines to go “where no one else has gone.” As a consequence, there is a strong tendency to ignore trail and road closures, and violate any limitations placed upon use of the machines.
For instance, a study in Georgia documented that of the 59 routes surveyed in the Chattahoochee NF, illegal ORV use occurred on 67 %, including designated wilderness and trails restricted to pedestrians.
Another study conducted in Colorado on behalf of Colorado Coalition for Responsible ORV Riding found that despite the fact that most thrillcraft enthusiasts understood that they should not stray from designated trails, more than two-thirds admitted they go off-trail occasionally, and 15-20% admitted they regularly rode off legal routes.
Violation of Rights of Other Public Lands Users
A peaceful walk in the woods is violated by the noise from thrillcraft. An otherwise successful stalk of a deer or elk might be jeopardized by the sudden appearance of a noisy machine. The fact is that the majority of people do not use these machines to access our natural areas. A recent survey by the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks found that 90% of Montana trail users were on foot, and only 2% used thrillcraft.