Mountain Driving: 7 Essential Safety Tips
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mountain roads are narrower than Interstate highways. Some drivers have a tendency to hug the center line, but this driving technique is both unwise and irritating to other drivers. If you are hugging the center line, and another center-hugging vehicle comes around a curve from the opposite direction, both drivers may overcorrect and.
Mountain driving. The term conjures of a cruise through beautiful mountains and rich forests so rugged that only mountain men had set foot in them. Yes, mountains are beautiful and can be fun to drive in or they can be Estimated Reading Time: 7 mins.
Pro Travel Tips for Driving Through the Mountains
Yes you will need to employ some techniques and forward planning, but the rewards can be truly spectacular. Preparation is therefore the key, especially if you and your car are not used to driving in this difficult terrain. This guide here is a great start if we do say so ourselves but there are also many other resources to check out before you set out.
That means giving it an oil change , it means giving it an all over service to tackle all those little niggling faults you ignore day to day — it even means something as simple as topping up the windshield washer fluid. The Right Tires As we mentioned above, mountain driving can put unique stresses and strains on different parts of the vehicle, especially when compared to normal driving conditions at ground level.
Many people will simply over plan here, and go out and buy expensive, mountain specific tires. All season tires and all terrain tires are by far the best investment instead because mountain driving actually involves a much wider range of terrains and conditions than many people will assume.
For example, if you think of mountain driving, then you probably think of, well, a road meandering through the mountains, right? That is correct, but it also only half the picture. Mountain driving involves a range of road surfaces — you can be on gravel tracks in the lower reaches, well maintained asphalts as you pass through towns, rutted, weather scarred blacktop in higher, harder to access elevations.
The weather too can change on a dime, a characteristic of mountainous zones. You could set off in sunshine, climb the elevations through fog and closing cloud, descend in pouring rain. That is why it is far better to have tires that can cope with the widest array of terrains and weathers, rather than ones with a narrow band of use. You should therefore plan for mountain driving in the same way you would for desert driving and bring some extra supplies with you.
The first and key safety tip here is to ensure that the car is fully fuelled before you start the journey. Whether you take additional fuel is up to you, but if you map out the points between gas stations, you should be able to get from Point A to Point B without running on fumes. Learn from our hard earned experience read mistakes and never assume you can get food on the way! Brake Technique 1: Brake Early In addition to the gorgeous scenery, one other thing you may notice is a lot of speed signs.
Now, we can all be guilty of… lets say, looking on those signs as mere suggestions from time to time. That is relatively ok on flat land but up in the mountains, with their often twisting routes and sharp declines, it is no less than a recipe for disaster. It is therefore a strong safety tip that you really do keep an eye out for — and obey — these signs. Not only is it a good safety tip, it is also a good tip to help improve your driving style. By being able to anticipate turns, curves and descents you can really help you to control your way through them.
For example, on a sharp descent into a turn, the temptation will be to brake heavily as you hit the turn itself. Instead, it is a better to brake and downshift early before you even hit those turns. Not only this going to be gentler on the brakes — with the downshift taking on a portion of the stopping power the vehicle must deploy — you can also get better control through the turn.
By coming into it slowly and in a lower gear, you can turn into and actually accelerate into the turn. There is an old saying on mountain roads — you can enter a turn as slow as you like as often as you like, but you only hit it fast once. So look out for those speed signs! As you approach your descent section of the mountain road, if you have paid attention to the point above then you will have already braked softy and down shifted through the gears if possible.
On anything but the shortest section of downward road though you are still going to need to use the brakes again at some point. The weight of the vehicle plus our old friend gravity simply creates too much momentum. Many people will hang on the brakes, tapping them over and over again to create small decelerations the entire way down the road. This is bad. Try to use the Pulse method instead. Say you set the safe speed at 30mph. What you do is allow the vehicle to reach 35mph, then apply steady braking to drop the speed down to 25mph.
You then allow the speed to go back up to 35mph, until which time you brake it back to 25mph. Rinse and repeat with the benefit that this keeps you in control and allows the brake pads time to cool between applications. So one good one is to avoid hugging the center of the road.
It does therefore become tempting to hug the center of the road, but you must avoid that temptation. It will annoy drivers behind you as it prevents overtaking, and it annoys drivers approaching you as you will be too far over into their traffic lane, sometimes with fatal consequences. At higher altitudes, as the air thins, the engines can struggle to reach the performance they would give at lower elevations. On the one hand, the views can be spectacular.
There is nothing wrong with safely pulling off the road to take them in, they are one of the best things about driving over mountain routes after all. Often when you drive mountain roads, you will be sharing the asphalt with locals who drive these routes for years and years. It is polite to move over if a car is in your rear view, has been there for a while and clearly wants to get ahead of you though.
So to recap, make sure the car is ready, make sure the tires are suitable, pack enough fuel for the car and for you, practice good braking, follow the unwritten rules of mountain driving and know when to stop and pull over.
Keep calm, enjoy the journey and admire the views. Happy driving!