Whether located on rugged mountain terrain or on smoother surfaces, winding roads are a fact of driving life. And, they can be a challenge to navigate.
The primary action drivers can take when traveling along curving roadways is an obvious one: simply slow down. In addition, drivers should make sure to follow advisory speed limit signs.
“Every curve has what’s called the ‘critical speed of the curve.’ If you go too fast, it’s going to get to a point where you’re going to lose control. You could oversteer or understeer,” said Phil Moser, vice president of Advanced Driver Training Services (ADTS).
Proceed with Caution
Other basic tips for driving carefully on twisting terrain include:
- Scanning ahead as far as possible.
- Slowing down when approaching a curve, especially a blind curve.
- Keeping the vehicle centered in the lane.
- Slowing down and being especially observant in areas inhabited by animals, such as deer.
- Using high beams as much as possible when driving at night and/or in weather conditions that limit visibility.
- Drivers should particularly take weather into account in areas where it can be unpredictable.
“On mountainous roads, it might be wet down at the bottom, but there may be snow and ice at the top. Expect it and drive accordingly,” Moser said.
If a driver’s vehicle goes off the road, he or she should avoid hitting the brakes or jerking the wheel back onto the road — instead, the driver should ease off the accelerator pedal and gradually come back onto the pavement if there’s a “lip” on the road, according to Moser.
And, make sure to slow down when approaching the crest of a hill.
“If you’re following a larger vehicle — say, a tractor trailer — and there’s a passing lane, I really advise that people do not pass that truck at the crest of a hill because trucks use gravity to help them build up momentum to go up to the other side,” Moser said.
Another key to driving safely — on roads both winding and straight — is taking preventive measures to ensure the vehicle is in good condition. Fleet managers should have components such as brakes, suspension, steering, and fluid levels checked regularly, and they should make sure the windshield and headlights are clean. In addition, tires should be properly inflated, and Moser recommended that fleet managers ensure drivers check vehicle tire pressure on a weekly basis.
“You want proper tire-to-road surface contact, so proper tire inflation is crucial,” Moser said.
In addition, keep loose items in the vehicle properly stored. Although the trunk is the ideal storage location for cargo such as sales materials or samples, if the vehicle does not have a trunk or cage to separate the passenger area from equipment, items should be placed as low and as far to the back of the vehicle as possible.
If an item absolutely has to be on a seat, put a seatbelt around it. And, if an item begins to slide off the seat, let it fall.
“Don’t grab for it, because now you’re distracted, you’re probably turning the wheel inadvertently, and you’re in worse trouble,” Moser said.