Let’s face it, most of us get our drivers licence on home turf which in most cases is in cities or towns . The driving skills we learn are optimised for the city and there are many props to assist us with our driving in a cityscape.
An increasing number of road accidents in the recent past have prompted us to compile these tips for driving in the hills where roads, terrain, style, road rules and the driving ecosystem, outside of our vehicle, is different from our learning ground. Keep these tips in mind whenever you are on a road trip to the hills.
The points elaborated below are tips from Pro’s, Amateur, Regular drivers frequenting high altitude driving and let me tell you personally, these pointers have kept me without a incident until today!
Do note that this is not a guide on safe driving but only suggestions to add to a safe road trip.
The number one rule, Stay Alert
The number one rule where ever you are driving is to Stay alert. Beware of your surroundings and whose driving around you, their driving pattern, stay away from less confident drivers. You might be a seasoned driver but the other person may not be as skilled. So keep your distance from errant drivers.
Alcohol and Driving don’t compliment each other, Period
This goes beyond mountain driving or any other form of driving. Alcohol and driving don’t compliment each other, throw high altitude in the mix and the terrain gets nasty. So if you look forward to basic or binge drinking please hire a driver or designate a friend to drive. There are many such service providers where one can hire a driver from suiting to your requirement.
Never park, overtake on a curve, where there is no line of sight no matter how tempting the corner might be. This is the reason for over 60% of mishaps.
Mountain driving is very different from driving in the plains . The line of sight, clutch and gear ratio, the way you make the corners and S bends, the way you negotiate the slush, all these factors account for your safety. The thumb rule to smooth driving in bad road patches is low rpm, small gears and a speed below 20-30 kmph (lest it is a incline), if it is a incline accelerate your vehicle where it can make the climb comfortably without putting load on the engine or clutch.
Generally I would not put this under a sub heading, but given the number of people I know who drive a manual transmission, makes this important. Never use half clutch especially on the mountains. If the vehicle requires more torque and road grip, shift to a smaller gear and accelerate accordingly, if you are in the habit of using half clutch to rev the engine and gain torque, give it up as this might and eventually will fry you clutch stalling your vehicle without a warning.
Those of you driving an automatic that’s a to-do struck off your list!
Don’t “clinch” the centre line.
Most mountain roads are contracted than highways. Some drivers have a tendency to hold the centre line, but this driving technique is both unwise and irritating to other drivers. If you are hugging the centre line, and another centre-hugging vehicle comes around a curve from the opposite direction, both drivers may over correct and create a hazardous situation.
Have a long sight and try to gauge upcoming traffic for the next few curves, maintain line based on that and keep sufficient distance from heavier vehicles.
Right of way
The traffic going uphill should be given the right of way. Always allow plenty of time for passing vehicles to make it back to their lane. Keep in mind that higher elevations reduce a vehicle’s available horsepower, and your car may not perform as well at 10,000 feet as it does at sea level.
Slowing down for any reason, whether it’s to view scenery or because of a steep grade, is acceptable, as long as you maintain alertness. If traffic behind you grows to more than three vehicles, look for a designated pullout and let the traffic pass.
Driving in Monsoons
The weather is quite impulsive at high altitudes, more so during the monsoons, so always be ready for a sudden downpour. If having visibility problems, identify a safe spot, park your vehicle with the hazard lights on.
Please park responsibly, roads on high altitudes are narrow and wrong parking can cause unwanted fuss like traffic jams, conflict with other drivers and you don’t want a commotion while on a holiday!
Most cars are fitted with reversing sensors, it is recommended that a person physically guide the driver while reversing or parking given the nature of the terrain and altitude.
Leave the car in gear opposite to that of slope/incline, use hand brake/ parking brake while parking, respect the side line (stop if you must at all on mountains).
Most of us love the adrenalin rush, though speeding is more dangerous on a mountain terrain, find yourself a straight stretch of road and hit the gas to your heart’s desire, although you might find that you cannot sustain the acceleration for long! given the terrain.
Know your Vehicle
It’s always a good idea to know your vehicle and the usual problem areas, it would help if you know how to fix them if anything happens en-route. Especially with hatchbacks and sedans, since they have low ground clearances take care when driving through bad patches where the ground hits the underbelly of your car and might damage the oil slump below.
Pack these handy driving essentials
-Jerry Cans with extra fuel and funnel.
-Air compressor, foot pump with Hydraulic Jack (especially if it’s a all women group).
-Road Map(Always comes handy).
-A hammer or a rod (to be kept in the passenger cabin).
-Medical/first Aid Kit.
Feel free to share these with the driver on your next road trip. Leave a comment with any other tip that you would like to share. Safe Travels!