Tips on Highway Driving

I have compiled these highway tips from posts at team-bhp.com. There may be a lot of things that are specific to India and a few that are debatable. Kindly use your Common Sense .

General
  • WEAR YOUR SEATBELTS and insist that others in the car wear theirs as well
  • Get your car serviced and checked up before embarking on a long journey and also have details of service centers on the route
  • Drivers tend to be sleepy at dawn and is a hot time for accidents. If for some reason you feel you are sleepy and need to take a quick nap. Stop the car safely to the side of the road and take in some sleep
  • Don’t suddenly stop/slowdown in the middle of the road (you are on highway remember) to take a picture. If you do decide to stop…move to the left and take the car off the road and stop and switch on your hazard lamps. While getting back on ensure there’s no traffic behind you, use your indicator and only then get on to the road
  • Use your rear view mirrors. Use horns on the highway liberally. We are not in US.
  • If you are uncomfortable with night driving, plan your journey and stops well
  • The closer you get to your destination, the greater the urge to reach faster or the tendency to lose concentration/focus. A greater risk of a collision or accident
  • Give way, let faster vehicles overtake you, slow down a little to ease the process. If possible, move over to the left and let him go. Remember that there are a lot of vehicles that will be faster than you, if he has caught up with you it means that he is faster. Corollary: When stuck behind a slow moving vehicle, if a faster vehicle is behind you, let him overtake first before you swing out to overtake.
  • On multi-lane highways, if you are following a vehicle, stay in the same lane as the vehicle in front. If, for any reason you feel uncomfortable doing this, keep a huge distance between you and the vehicle in front (enough for an overtaking vehicle to safely change lanes between you and the vehicle in front).
  • Give priority for small vehicles/pedestrians on your left when your are crossing a town/city.
  • Kill your ego or it might kill you. Don’t race with some one who has overtaken you in a rash way.
  • Don’t get attracted to road incidents while driving. It may distract you from concentrating on the road.
  • Slow down when crossing small towns/villages. Watch out for two wheelers/pedestrians may suddenly decide to cross or take a U turn.
    Wait for your turn to cross a narrow flyover/bridge and police barricades.
  • If you are hungry, eat. When you are hungry your driving will also get aggressive
  • When you are on highways, ensure your ORVMs are set in a position so that you get the max view of traffic in your left and right from your driving position. meaning push the mirrors outwards. Typically in the CITY we tend to have the mirrors placed a bit “inwards” so as to see a part of your car’s body ( to keep an eye on vehicles-like 2 wheelers driving very close to you ). Keep the mirrors away as much as possible so that you can see the vehicles that are trying to overtake you.
  • Never take you eyes from the road.
  • Never drive with one hand on the steering at high speed.
  • Let the people in your car chat and have fun. But you don’t actively involve yourself in the fun. Occasionally nod with a grin. After all there are so many lives you need to safeguard apart from yours and you need to be responsible.
  • Don’t let your spouse feed you when you drive. You can park somewhere and have all the food.
  • Always slow down at junctions. These are dangerous zones and I have seen people drive at reckless speeds through these regions. Speed up only during proper highway stretches, and not at junctions.
  • It always pays to slow down a bit if you are seeing a bike or any other vehicle crossing at a distance ahead. You might think he is the only one, and right behind him you’ll see another 2 or 3 guys crossing the highway, only to find that you are doing high speeds and need to urgently stop.
    Overtaking
  • Do not overtake till you have accumulated at least a 1000kms of highway driving experience and do not exceed more than 70-80kmh on your first few runs, just so that you get used to slowing down, braking,the curves on a highway,the slow bullock carts, the cyclists (most dangerous In My Honest Opinion), the oncoming traffic specially buses.
  • While overtaking don’t blindly follow/tailgate the vehicle ahead of you that is also overtaking. While overtaking he/she would have assessed for enough space ahead for his/her vehicle to get back into the lane, but not for yours. Also if that person ahead of you has wrongly estimated the road and speed of the oncoming traffic you are in big trouble!
  • Once you have finished overtaking a vehicle, don’t cut immediately to the left. Proceed till your car crosses the vehicle fully and move to the lane. Indicate again when coming to left too.
  • Dont try to overtake on a flyover or a bridge.
  • Dont try to overtake if another vehicle is waiting for its turn to overtake the slow moving vehicle. Wait till the other vehicle completes its overtaking. (For e.g. in a double lane road, a vehicle might be following a slow moving truck because of some obstacle. Trying to squeeze in between is dangerous). Just wait for your turn.
  • Watch for people crossing before or after a parked/stopped bus. Honk for a long time before you overtake the parked/stopped bus.
    Make sure the parked vehicle on your left is not ready to start before you overtake. Sometime they might come into the way without noticing you approaching. Though its their mistake, but better to be careful.
    When overtaking a heavy container/trailer etc. it would not do any harm to honk.
  • When about to overtake, make sure that there isnt a faster car in your mirror that has already decided to overtake you and the car ahead of you already. You would think that you have left traffic behind, but a faster car might appear out of no where and attempt a double overtake.
  • On 4 lane tracks, If a slow moving truck is overtaking another slow (relatively) moving truck, it is usual that the truck who overtook will move to the left most lane after completing the manoeuvre. I have observed that some impatient ( or ignorant ) car drivers tailing the overtaking truck on the right lane and cutting to the left lane to overtake the truck in front of them. The truck driver, ignorant of the car behind him will close to the left and the car driver will be forced to brake very hard. I have seen one driver losing control and veering off the road.
  • On 2 lane highways, if you are tailing two heavy vehicles in a convoy and the one infront of you is trying to overtake another one, and he is almost committed by moving his vehicle to the right side, please do not push forward and close the gap with the vehicle that is being overtaken. Reason is that, in case, the vehicle on right lane reverses his decision, he will need a breathing space to join the convoy behind the heavy vehicle he was trying to overtake. He miay not be aware that you have closed in . This could lead to hard braking conditions or worst case, your car may me ejected from the road
    Lights
  • Understand the use of dimming and dipping your headlights.
    If someone behind you is constantly dimming and dipping means he wants to overtake you.
  • At curves/blind bends people on the opposite side dim and dip to warn oncoming traffic of their presence and that they are coming through,if you are on your highbeam and the opposite driver flashes his lights he is requesting you to use your low beam
  • Use your low beams when there is oncoming traffic
  • While trying to overtake trucks or buses, normally the highway educated drivers will let you know if you can overtake or not through their indicators or wave of hand. If the left indicator blinks, it means you can’t overtake and there’s oncoming traffic while the ‘right’ indicator means, go ahead
  • When following a vehicle, shift to low beam.
    Braking
  • If a dog/hen crosses the road don’t try braking to avoid them (especially if you are driving fast and if it’s a busy highway). Trying to suddenly stop could result in the car swerving and you losing control and putting your life at risk as well as the others
  • Try to use engine braking as far as possible. i.e lower the gears and brake
    Braking is always better than swerving to your right or left trying to avoid a cow for example. You might end up with a head on collision or worse still go under a parked truck which has high base.

    Rains
  • Try to keep the speeds down trust me, driving in the wet is an entirely different ballgame and remember that once one loses control of the car it is very nearly impossible to regain control. So its always best to travel a good 30% slower than you normally might
  • Never use Cruise Control
  • If you see a big patch of water, slow down or try to avoid it. Even if you know the road is fine.
  • If you sense your car is aquaplaning, drop some gears to gain engine-braking and DO NOT slam the brakes; let engine braking do its bit to shift weight and slow the car down progressively
  • Always maintain tire pressure