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What Is 'Mudding'? Is It Legal?

The recent death of MTV's "Buckwild" star Shain Gandee has thrust "mudding" into the spotlight. Many people are now wondering just what is mudding and whether mudding is legal.

Generally, mudding involves driving an all-terrain vehicle or sport utility vehicle off-road through wet fields, streams, lakeshores, lakebeds, or other muddy areas, according to the U.S. Forest Service. Individuals who go mudding generally race through these areas, spinning their tires and throwing mud.

In the process, they also may rip up vegetation, create unsightly holes, and destroy property. So is mudding legal?

Generally speaking, mudding is not illegal in and of itself. For example, there are no laws that provide that someone shall never drive in a muddy area.

However, there are laws and regulations that prohibit mudding in certain areas, like on state and federally owned land, as well as laws against dangerous driving in general. Here's a look at some potential legal consequences of mudding:

  • Careless or reckless driving citations. You could be breaking the law by driving carelessly or recklessly. The same is true if you drive carelessly on a highway or in the backcountry. Since mudding can be an inherently risky activity, you may be cited for reckless driving.

  • Monetary fines. State and federal laws may provide fines for mudding on their land. For example, you face a potential $5,000 fine for mudding on federal property.

  • Trespassing charges. Unless you are mudding on your own land, or have the permission of the landowner, you could get busted for trespassing if you decide to take your vehicle onto someone else's property. And if you cause any property damage or destruction, you could also be slapped with a lawsuit to pay for the damage caused.

  • Personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits. As seen in the case of Shain Gandee, mudding can have tragic results. Mudding can lead to broken bones, concussions, and other injuries that come with a vehicle crashing through mud. If this has happened to you, an experienced lawyer may be able to help you get compensation.

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