There is a significant difference between driving on plains and driving through Ghat roads. There are certain sets of unwritten rules that one has to follow when driving through Ghat roads. If you are planning for a trip and would be driving through Ghat section, read the do’s and dont’s that I have listed below while driving through Mountainous terrain.
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Over the past 15 years, I have driven through roads which have taken me to remote locations in India. I have driven through the unforgiving roads of Himalayas, to the narrow and treacherous roads of western ghats. I have made my fair share of mistakes and have learnt from them.
What I am illustrating below are few good practices that you should follow while driving on Ghat sections in India:
- Getting your vehicle serviced: It is always a good idea to service your vehicle before any long drive and it becomes that much more important to service your vehicle when you are planning to drive through Ghat section. Get your Tyres and Brakes checked thoroughly. If needed get them replaced. Also check the alignment of the wheels – turning radius is critical when you are negotiating ghat road. Spending those few extra bucks would not hurt you.
- Thumb rule while driving through ghats: The Golden rule is “Give way for uphill traffic”. Remember that the vehicles coming uphill are putting in that much more effort to climb and it will be a good idea to pull over and let them pass.
- Select the right gear: Always be a gear lower than the gear that you would be driving at that speed on the plains. While going uphill this will prevent you from stalling the vehicle and while coming downhill, help in keeping a check on your speed.
- Do not place your car in Neutral and coast downhill: A common mistake that many of us do while coming downhill is to leverage gravity and try to save on the fuel by placing the car in Neutral. NEVER ever try to do this. A car downhill in Neutral is like a coaster without brakes. Most of the brake failures are due to people coasting down at high speeds and using their brakes extensively to negotiate the turns. To reduce speed when coming down-hill, shift to a lower gear, let the car rev up, (by shifting a gear up, the engine automatically reduces the speed) and then apply the brakes.
- Use those handbrakes when going uphill – Many people cannot balance the throttle and clutch while going uphill and end up stalling the car – the last thing that you want to do while driving through ghats is going downhill backwards !. Use handbrakes frequently and ensure that you are revved up while negotiating those steep curves.
- Be patient while overtaking: I have had many close encounters because of me being impatient while overtaking. Over the years, I have matured and have learnt that – no amount of honking will let you pass a vehicle ahead. Heavy vehicles struggle to scale the steep gradient and trust me, they are not going to slow down and risk stalling their vehicle. Honk once and let them know that you are there, most of the heavy vehicle drivers are mature enough to acknowledge your presence and will let you pass at the right moment – yes that’s correct, you need to wait for them to select the “Right Moment”
- Use those horns wisely: Needless to say, honk when you are about to negotiate a blind curve – alerts the oncoming vehicle.
- Stick to your lane and do not straight-line: Unless you are in a WRC rally or F1 race (where there is no oncoming traffic) :), never straight line the curves. You might hit few rocks and end up losing control of your car.
- Pull over only at a safe spot: If you have to stop, ensure that you are in a safe spot. Ensure that your car is not in the turning radius of heavy vehicles and also stop at a spot where you are visible from a distance.
- Keep safe distance between you and the vehicle ahead: Maintain distance between you and the vehicle ahead – both while going uphill and while driving downhill. Remember, while going uphill, the car ahead can stop that much faster (due to gravity) and while coming downhill, you will need that much more distance to brake (due to gravity)
- Switch off those radios and expensive stereo systems: I know we all love listening to our favourite songs during long drives 🙂 , but the last thing that you want is to overhear the honking of the oncoming vehicle due to the loud music that you are playing.
- Night driving tips: Follow all the above rules and add this rule while negotiating ghat roads at night – Never use high beams. High beams can blind the oncoming vehicle. A good way to alert the oncoming vehicle that you are going to continue driving would be to blink your high-beam couple of times.
- Stay Alert: You need to be that much more alert while driving through ghats. You never know what is around that corner.
- And finally… DO NOT over-speed: Needless to say, most of the accidents on ghat roads are due to instance where drivers have lost control as they were over-speeding
Follow these points and I am sure you will have a safe journey while driving through ghats. It is an experience to be drive through ghats. Why race and try to reach your destination quickly when you can soak yourself in natures beauty at its best.
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