Tips for driving on different terrain

Having a car means you can travel far and wide, over terrain both familiar and unknown. However, when you’re out on the roads it’s important to remember that different conditions will often require extra special care in order to avoid accidents and negotiate hazards successfully.

Whether you’re driving on city roads or going off the beaten track, it’s important to consider how the conditions might impact your driving.

With that in mind, here are some tips that will come in handy for the different types of terrain you may encounter.

Driving during winter: Wet roads

The weather always plays a part in the driving conditions of the day, but during winter you may need to take some extra precautions. Heavy rainfall and hail can make it difficult to see as far as you would normally be able to and they also make the roads more slippery.

Reduce your following distance and stick to an appropriate speed limit. Wet roads also increase the risk of hydroplaning, which occurs when the liquid on the road creates a ‘film’ barrier between the road and your vehicle’s tyres. This can lead to a loss of traction and a greater chance of hydroplaning or gliding across the surface of the road. If this happens, it’s best to take your foot off the accelerator completely, hold the steering wheel firmly in place and apply light pressure to the brakes.

If you’re driving on snowy roads, make sure your wheels are fitted with chains to provide more traction and drive slowly. Black ice is another hazard that can occur during winter that causes drivers to lose control of their vehicles.

This thin sheet of ice can be hard to see, but it is most common around waterways and lakes in cooler or shaded areas. Drive slowly, reduce your following distance, avoid sudden braking and try to keep an eye out for any shiny or wet patches that could indicate black ice.

Unsealed roads

Unsealed roads can sometimes be very narrow, so remember to reduce your speed below 40 or 50 km/h for better vehicle control. Oncoming traffic will kick up dust clouds and gravel that can damage your windscreen and paint work, so slow down as much as you can when approaching another vehicle.

If driving downhill, be extra vigilant as gravel hinders your brakes’ effectiveness. Slow down and don’t slam on the brakes suddenly.

Hilly terrain

If you’re ascending or descending through hills on your journey, you’ll have to take some extra precautions. Always approach a hill straight on rather than diagonally, as this can increase the risk of a roll. You should never try to turn a vehicle on steep slopes..

Put your car in the highest gear so that it can ‘pull’ comfortably in when tackling a hill, as a gear that’s too low will lead to your wheels spinning. However, too high a gear won’t give you enough power to successfully reach the top.

Before going down a hill, stop about a vehicle length away from the start of the descent so you can make any adjustments or corrections. Use your brakes lightly and only when needed. Some cars also have a ‘hill descent control’ feature that can help you go down the hill safely.

Rutted tracks and mud

Gears that are too low increase the risk of tyres spinning on muddy roads, so keep this in mind as you’re driving. You will want to keep a steady momentum going to carry you through deep mud, but watch out for any ruts in the track.

If the mud forces your car to travel in the rutted sections, it’s best to relax your hold on the wheel at times and stay connected through your palms. This helps your wheels to go back to the straight-ahead position.

These steps can reduce the potential of a road crash, but you need to be prepared at all times with insurance and safe driving habits.

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