Mountain roads are often remote, and it may be hours before anyone can reach you if you have an accident or breakdown. The right tools and supplies can help you stay safe in these unpredictable situations.
Remember these tips before you hit the road to drive safely and enjoy the scenery.
Check Your Brakes
Mountain driving puts a lot of stress on your vehicle. This is especially true when climbing steep grades. Your engine will work harder to climb the hill; if you’re not careful, it could overheat or burn out your brakes.
When going down the hill, always brake before shifting into a lower gear and try to use a technique called “pulse braking” (a trucker trick). This will help you avoid slamming on the brakes constantly, which can wear out your brake pads quickly.
Remember that cell signal is sparse when travelling on mountain roads, and it can be hours before anyone arrives to help you if you have a problem.
Prepare for Weather
Pre-trip inspections are essential for truck drivers but especially crucial for mountain driving. Check the weather forecast and road conditions before your trip to prepare for potential delays and know whether or not snow chains may be required on certain roadways. Also, be sure to have a full gas tank and bring food and water if you’re delayed for an extended period.
In rural mountain areas, sudden inclement weather or damaging commercial vehicle accidents could leave you stranded for hours. Ensure you have the tools and equipment necessary to make it to the nearest roadside assistance, like a spare tire and jack, as well as extra blankets and warm clothing. When descending steep grades, shift into lower gears to limit stress on your brakes and help you control speed.
Give Semi-Trucks Extra Room
It’s important always to leave enough space between you and the vehicle ahead. Trucks take longer to stop than cars and can’t maneuver as easily, especially when going up or down steep grades.
Also, be careful when changing lanes. Trucks are much taller than passenger vehicles and may swing wider to make turns. They are also more likely to generate wind gusts, which can be dangerous for smaller vehicles around them.
Finally, avoid passing trucks on the right side. This will put you in their blind spot and increase the risk of a dangerous accident. Passing trucks on the left is safer and allows you to see their mirrors better. Also, do not pass trucks on downgrades, as they will pick up speed.
Be Ready for Detours
While navigating mountain roads may seem adventurous and fun, preparing for the unexpected is essential. From ensuring your vehicle is in good condition and packing emergency supplies to understanding the terrain, monitoring weather conditions, and adhering to local regulations, adequate preparation fosters responsible driving behavior and enhances the enjoyment of your journey.
It only takes a moment of inattention to lose control on curvy mountain roads, and one crash can lead to several others. It is crucial to leave enough distance between you and the car in front of you, avoid distractions like phones and radios, use lower gears on descents to control speed, and be cautious around sharp turns. Being stranded for extended periods is also possible, so carrying emergency supplies and informing someone of your travel plans is essential.
Watch for Natural Hazards
Even the most prepared driver can end up in a life-threatening situation when they’re not on their best game. That’s especially true when driving in the mountains.
The sides of mountain roadways are littered with stranded cars, which should be enough to convince any driver to keep their car’s maintenance up to date. Mountain roads also require more fuel than usual, so make sure your tank is full before you hit the road.
And, of course, the mountains are home to many wild animals, some of which like to cross roadways at dangerous times and places. Hitting an animal on a mountain highway can be disastrous, with deadly consequences for all involved.