Every year when the temperatures rise, a deluge of reports about hikers needing rescue from Arizona’s many trails prompt some people in the Phoenix area to call for a hiking reform.
Arizona has what’s known as the “Stupid Driver Law” where any motorist who becomes stranded after driving around barricades to enter a flooded stretch of roadway can be charged for the cost of their rescue and additional liability.
High summertime temperatures in Arizona reach close to or above 120 degrees leaving the many popular hiking trails a chance to become dangerous or even deadly. With over 200 hiking rescues each of the last few years, and nearly 300 in 2016, the Stupid Hiker Law has been discussed by city officials, but has yet to be put into effect.
There are no laws on hiking bans requiring the trails to be closed due to a weather incident or high temperatures, even with summer temperatures reaching close to 120 degrees.
A Stupid Hiker Law could be too difficult to enforce as there are multiple cities and counties involved. This is due to general policy reasons and special enforcement difficulties.
But the risk for hiking extends to more than just high temperatures. When speaking with a local attorney, Robert Mann from Radix Law expressed that if we’re going to close hiking trails when it’s 115 degrees do we need to close them when a monsoon is coming in or when it’s 110 or 105 degrees?
He says he doesn’t think the problem with heat rescues is when temps reach 119 degrees, but rather when it is in the 100 to 105-degree range.
“I think there’s more of a risk when you get into temperatures that are between about 95-110 because someone could take off on a hike at 10:30 a.m., maybe there’s some cloud cover, maybe its 90 95 degrees and by the time you get 2 miles up the mountain and it’s suddenly 105, 108 and they’re realizing they’re in too deep,” Mann says.
Temperatures are bearable at different points for different people for many reasons. A law like this could also discourage a hiker in need from seeking help because they don’t want a ticket or get in trouble.
In addition to heat related rescues, there are tripping and falling rescues, bee attacks and general medication condition problems. Heat is just one of the many reasons for rescues.
Without a Stupid Hiker Law or regulations on hiking, individuals are left to make their own decisions.
“Our politicians generally speaking do not want to regulate and govern individual behavior,” Mann said.
The policy decision as to what’s the exact temperature when we need to close the trails, would be difficult for politicians to come up and decide on, he added.