On the Arrive Alive website we share information on the need for defensive driving and some rather challenging conditions on our roads. We believe that too few drivers adjust their speed and driving style to the road, traffic and weather conditions. We decided to raise a few questions with safe driving specialist Eugene Herbert specifically with regards to driving in the mountains:
Would you agree that we do not “test” ability to drive mountain passes before licensing drivers and allowing them to drive in mountainous areas?
Yes a driver should be licenced before attempting to drive mountain passes. A driver should have gained some experience in driving on roads before any attempts are made in mountains.
What in your experience are the major causes of crashes in mountain passes?
The main cause is limited forward vision and positioning for the corners and bends that extends forward vision. A driver begins to look at the inside of the bend without lifting the vision to look through the corner. Drivers are frequently caught out by bends that a sharper than initially thought.
How important is driving experience in navigating dangerous mountain passes?
Driving experience is important in driving on any roads but because of the demanding nature of mountain passes – especially so.
What are the major adjustments required to driving technique when having to drive mountain passes?
Selection of a correct gear for ascents or descents is very important as this will control the speed of the vehicle. Drivers often are reluctant to engage the suitable gear before dealing with any hills and are often caught out trying to engage a lower gear in corners or bends. Forward vision and looking through corners is essential as by doing this it gives the driver the complete picture of how to negotiate a bend etc.
What would be the best suggestions to offer drivers not familiar to driving in mountainous areas when:
– Driving up the mountain Be especially aware of slow moving trucks that are crawling up or down the mountain pass. Their extremely slow speed often catches or road users out and cause problems
– Driving down the mountain Also drive down a maintain pass in the same gear as you would drive up the pass. This will control your speed of decent by engine compression and avoid long periods of braking cause the brakes to over heat
Are there special considerations to take into account with regards to vehicle roadworthiness/ readiness when having to drive in mountainous areas?
An exterior and interior check is essential and the vehicle must be roadworthy with a good service record
Any specific advice or caution when towing a trailer or caravan?
A major concern it descending with a trailer or caravan. Engage the correct gear before the decent to control the speed of decent and use the straight roads for braking to avoid braking in a bend