Mountain Driving: A Comprehensive Guide

Essential Guidelines for Mountain Driving: A Comprehensive Guide

1. Exercise Extra Caution Around Wildlife

Mountainous regions are often teeming with wildlife, making animal strikes a common occurrence. Locals in these areas often equip their vehicles with push bars and reinforced bumpers as a precaution. The dense animal population, coupled with the terrain, often leads to animals crossing roads in dangerous locations, such as shaded valleys and blind curves. Large animals like elk and bears are common in these regions, and an encounter with one on a mountain road can be disastrous. To mitigate this risk, avoid driving at night when visibility is low and animals are more active. Even during the day, stay vigilant and aware of your surroundings.

2. Check The Weather Before You Ascend The Mountain

Weather conditions in mountainous areas can change rapidly with altitude. It's not uncommon to start your journey under clear blue skies and find yourself driving through a blizzard by the time you reach the top. Checking the weather conditions along your entire route before setting off is crucial, even if the weather seems fine. Mountain weather can be unpredictable and dangerous, so it's always better to be prepared.

3. Ensure Your Car Is In Good Condition

Mountain driving can be tough on vehicles. If your car has any existing issues, they're likely to worsen in these conditions. Broken down vehicles are a common sight on the sides of mountain roads. Not only is it inconvenient to get stranded in a mountainous area, but the cost of a tow truck can also be quite high. Therefore, it's essential to ensure your car is well-maintained and in good condition before you embark on your journey.

4. Carry Snow Chains In Winter, Regardless Of The Forecast

Mountain weather can be extremely unpredictable, especially in winter. Snowfall is measured in feet rather than inches in many mountain peaks, and it can accumulate rapidly within a few hours. Tire chains can be a lifesaver in these conditions. Without them, you risk getting stuck on a mountain road, which can lead to the highway being shut down until you can be safely moved. Always carry tire chains when driving in the mountains during winter. In many places, it's not just a recommendation, it's the law.

5. Keep Your Gas Tank Full

In some mountainous areas, gas stations can be few and far between. You might have to drive over 100 miles before you come across one, and when you do, the prices are likely to be much higher than usual. Running out of gas in the mountains can be extremely costly. Additionally, having a full tank of gas is crucial in case you get stranded due to sudden weather changes or accidents. A full tank can provide many hours of heat and electricity in winter months.

6. Brake Early Before Turns

Sharp turns are a common feature of mountain roads, and going downhill only adds to the momentum of your vehicle. Braking early before turns allows you to coast or accelerate through them, which improves your vehicle's stability. If you brake too hard after entering the turn, the forward shift in momentum can make it difficult to control your vehicle. Remember to brake before the turn and accelerate through it for a safer drive.

7. Brake And Downshift Before Descending

Many drivers make the mistake of not braking until they're halfway down a hill and their speed has picked up. It's safer and more efficient to brake before a downgrade. If you're driving a manual transmission vehicle or can shift into a lower gear, do so before the downgrade to avoid potential problems.

8. Use The "Pulse" Braking Method

Even with proper braking and downshifting before a downgrade, you'll likely need to apply the brakes while descending. The key is to use the pulse braking method, which involves applying steady brake pressure until your speed drops, then releasing the brakes to let your vehicle speed up again. This method helps keep your brake pads cool and effective.

9. Be Aware Of Rapid Temperature Changes

Temperatures can change quickly with altitude in mountainous areas. You might start your journey in sunny weather and find yourself in a blizzard by the time you reach the top. Fog can also be a significant issue, especially in valleys, where visibility can change from clear to extremely limited within seconds. Always be prepared for sudden changes in temperature and weather conditions.

10. Carry Food, Water, And Emergency Supplies

There are many reasons why you might get stranded on a mountain road, from animal strikes and blizzards to accidents and breakdowns. In remote areas, cell signal can be unreliable, and help might be hours away. It's important to carry at least a couple of days' worth of food and water, as well as a fresh pair of clothes and any tools you might need for minor vehicle repairs.

11. Invest In A CB Radio

A mobile CB radio with an external antenna can be a lifesaver if you frequently drive on remote mountainous roads. In areas with no cell phone signal, a CB radio can still work, provided there's someone else with a CB radio nearby. Most truck drivers in America have a CB radio and frequently monitor channel 19. If you're ever in trouble, switch to channel 19 and start asking for help.

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