Stay Safe: 9 Tips for Driving Through Mountains, Hills, and Remote Areas

driving-safety attorney

As the weather warms, a spontaneous getaway or extended vacation to the mountains of North Carolina can offer a wonderful way to relieve some stress for residents in Charlotte and Mecklenburg County. While our state offers beautiful views and limitless natural experiences on famous roads like the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Cherohala Skyway, clear weather and road conditions can become unpredictable in high elevations and remote areas, and car accidents in these areas can prove especially dangerous.

To help you stay safe during your travels through North Carolina’s diverse terrain, we’ve put together nine helpful tips that can reduce your risk for a crash while driving through mountainous or hilly areas.

9 Tips to Prepare You for a Scenic Drive

Before your upcoming travels, consider the following tips:

  1. Give your car a tune-up.
    Before a trip through mountainous terrain, especially after the cold months of winter, your car may need extra attention. Ensure the vehicle’s brake and transmission fluids are filled. Check that the brakes, heating and cooling, windshield wipers, battery performance, and exhaust systems are working properly. Also make sure the tires are inflated and a spare is on standby. Your car should be in optimal condition, as unexpected events, terrain, and weather may put a more demanding load on your vehicle.
  2. Fill up.
    Many people don’t realize that climbing steep grades requires more fuel than the typical drive. Couple that with the fact that gas stations and cell phone service could be sparse in mountainous areas and you have a recipe for a breakdown. Many mountain roads have minimal shoulders and little visibility ahead, so running out of gas could place you at serious risk of being hit by another driver. Avoid this scenario by filling your car up completely before a scenic mountain drive.
  3. Be ready for emergencies.
    Sudden inclement weather or a damaging car accident could leave you stranded for several hours in rural mountain areas. Before you depart, tell a friend or family member where you’re heading and when you plan to arrive just in case, and ensure you pack extra food, water, clothing, first aid, and tools to fix any minor troubles in case roadside assistance isn’t available.
  4. Use brakes cautiously.
    Continuous braking down steep grades can quickly overwork your brakes. When using brakes on declines, use the tap method (quick, light taps on the brake pedal) to keep them cool. Pay attention to speed signs, and anticipate steep, hairpin turns by braking before you take the plunge. By braking before turns, you shift the forces to the back of the car instead of the front, which offers greater control and the ability to more easily coast through snaking roads.

    RELATED: Distraction Seems To Be Causing The Rise In U.S. Traffic Deaths

  5. Downshift before extreme downgrades.
    For even better performance on steep topography, downshift into a lower gear. This will limit stress on your vehicle’s engine and brakes and help you control your speed. Make sure that you do this before you begin going downhill, as switching gears during a steep grade can be dangerous.
  6. Watch your temperature gauge.
    While you’re ascending, keep an eye on the engine temperature gauge and try to keep it in the safe zone. If you see it rising above the acceptable level, turn off the air conditioner and go lighter on the accelerator — or pull over where it’s safe and take in the view while your engine cools down for a bit.
  7. Stay alert and on your side of the road.
    Although it’s tempting to look at the breathtaking scenery while driving, stay focused on keeping an even distance between the yellow lines. Even the briefest moment of distraction can cause drifting, which could encroach onto oncoming traffic’s space and cause a crash.Use roadside pullouts for scenery stops, and whenever traffic behind you exceeds two or three vehicles, allow them to pass at the next legal pullout. Remember that uphill traffic has the right of way, and watch for hairpin turns, steep cliffs, and other unexpected shifts in terrain.
  8. Use your headlights.
    Dusk, dawn, rain, snow, fog, and night driving require headlights. When in doubt, use your headlamps to make yourself as visible as possible to oncoming traffic and cars in front of and behind you. Don’t forget to check that your car’s headlights are in good working order and free of debris or obstructions before you get on the road.
  9. Map out your trip beforehand — literally.
    Relying on your smartphone’s GPS app or your Garmin-type device may get you wherever you need to go without a hitch in urban areas, but these apps and devices tend to struggle in remote areas where small side roads may not be mapped completely or accurately. To avoid a wrong turn, plot out your trip on an old-fashioned paper map before you depart; even if your smartphone handles the job just fine, you’ll feel better knowing you have a backup on hand.

For help planning a scenic drive that can take you through some of North Carolina’s most beautiful landscapes, visit the State’s official “Scenic Byways and Drives” page at VisitNC.com: https://www.visitnc.com/scenic-byways-drives.

What If You’ve Gotten Into a Crash?

Even the most prepared drivers can end up in a life-threatening situation, especially when another person’s negligence enters the equation. If you’re in a crash, you should assess everyone’s condition and contact the police right away. We’ve written about the most important steps after a car accident before, and these steps can help you just as well in mountainous areas. However, after taking care of the essentials, you may need to take a few additional steps if you crash in the mountains or other remote areas.

For example, although it may take a long time for them to arrive, contact roadside assistance to either tow or analyze your car’s condition; driving a damaged vehicle on steep terrain can be extremely dangerous. If you’ve crashed in an area without cellular service and you’re confident in the integrity of your vehicle, you can drive cautiously to the nearest designated roadside pullout and seek assistance. If inclement weather is a factor, stay sheltered in your car as long as it’s in a safe location. If your car is unsafe, dress for the weather in your emergency gear, walk toward the nearest pullout, and seek immediate assistance.

Crashes on mountain roads tend to be even more dangerous than most auto accidents due to the limited visibility ahead, and one crash can lead to another if someone is driving too fast to see the stopped cars from the original accident. Exercise extreme caution after a collision, and if you must get out of your vehicle, avoid standing in the road at all costs.

Myers Law Firm: Helping Car Accident Victims

Whether your crash was caused by another driver or a road hazard, it’s critical to call an attorney in the case of an auto accident while traveling. Poor road conditions, improper signage, and any number of other factors could have caused or complicated your car wreck, but only an experienced personal injury attorney has the training and expertise to investigate your case, assess fault, and determine the best course of action. If someone else is at fault for your damaged vehicle or injuries, you deserve justice and compensation for your losses, and the team at Myers Law Firm is here to help.

At Myers Law Firm, we provide aggressive and efficient advocacy for auto accident victims in Mecklenburg County. We offer free initial consultations for all personal injury cases so we can discuss your unique situation and provide you with candid advice about your best course of action. Please complete our online form or call 888-376-2889 to meet our team and discuss your legal options at no risk to you.

The content provided here is for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal advice on any subject.