Most drivers from the plains know little about hill driving etiquette and therefore end up using their car horns more than the car’s mechanicals. Most people don’t know what gear to use or how to avoid over cooking the brakes while driving downhill. No wonder a large percentage of hill road accidents involve drivers from plains with little hill driving experience. Here’s a crash course on how to tackle the mountains.
As your sight of vision will be shorter while driving uphill and also the fall of the headlights would be limited, drive with utmost care because the traffic against you, is anyway moving faster coming down the hill.
Before overtaking, check traffic signs for bends, narrow bridges or any other information available. Also, watch the vehicle in front before overtaking for any signs of change in speed, an overtaking move or swerving. Remember he has a better view of the road ahead and might be taking remedial action before you can even see the obstruction ahead.
On any uphill climb, gravity slows you down. The steeper the road, the more you will have to use lower gears to climb hills or mountains. In coming down a long steep downhill, gravity causes the speed of your vehicle to increase you must select an appropriate safe speed, then use a low gear, and use proper and judicious braking techniques.
Brakes work thanks to the friction created between the pads and the discs. Naturally, friction causes heat and excessive heat can cause brake fade. It’s therefore important to balance engine braking with mechanical braking techniques.
One should also plan ahead and obtain information about any long steep hills along your planned route of travel. If possible, talk to other drivers who are familiar with the area to find out what speeds are safe.
Escape ramps are specially built on most steep mountain roads to allow drivers to either make stops or allow overtaking as normally the roads are not very wide to permit drivers to make a stop wherever they desire.
Escape ramps normally have a long bed of loose soft material like gravel to slow a runaway vehicle. Keep your eyes peeled for escape ramp locations on your route and only stop on them to allow free flow of traffic and for your own safety. Signs often show drivers where ramps are located.
Speed and curves
Slow down to a safe speed before you enter a curve as braking in a curve is dangerous as it can cause the vehicle to spin out of control thanks to weight shift. Don’t ever exceed the posted speed limit for the curves, your speed should be normally just under what is posted. Be in a gear that will allow slight acceleration through the curve as this will help maintain control. When entering a curve while going downhill, allow gravity to provide the slight acceleration.
Lane position in a corner
Maintaining the right lane position around a bend will help avoid head-on collisions. Stay centered in the lane to keep a safe clearance on all sides of the vehicle.
Hugging the outside of a curve increases the chance of dropping a tyre off the paved portion of the road onto a soft shoulder and losing traction. Hugging the inside of a curve on the other hand, increases your changes of a head-on accident especially around right handers as you end up driving in the wrong lane and have little time to avoid an on coming vehicle or even rocks on the road.
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