10 points to keep in mind while driving on highways

September 04, 2019 02:41 pm | Updated September 06, 2019 03:36 pm IST

A long weekend often gives people enough time to take a road trip to a nearby destination for some rest and relaxation. Road trips entail driving on highways, often for significant periods of time. We take a look at some points that you should keep in mind when driving on highways:

1. Speed

Speed is one of the most overlooked aspects when it comes to highway driving. Maintaining high speeds on highways is easy, as roads are wider and traffic is generally light. If there are signs that show a speed limit of 80kph, use them as a guide and stick close to it. It’s also a good practice to assess road conditions and set your pace accordingly.

2. Lane-changing

Switching lanes is among the most important driving manoeuvres. It becomes especially crucial on highways, where most vehicles travel at higher speeds. One of the most common mistakes is driving in the wrong lane. The right-most lane (fast lane) is meant just for overtaking, but is often misused as a driving lane. A slow-moving car can be a danger here.

If you need to change your lane, make sure you give the appropriate signal, keep an eye on the differential in speed, and move only once you’re sure there’s a safe gap.

Our Car - Tata Hexa - final report.- Omkar Dhas/Autocar India

Our Car - Tata Hexa - final report.- Omkar Dhas/Autocar India


3. Distance between vehicles

While driving on the highway, keep sufficient distance between your vehicle and the one in front, as it provides ample time to slow down and avoid a collision, if the person in front of you slams on the brakes. Always follow the three-second rule — look for a bridge or signboard as a reference point, and check the time you take to get there after the car in front of you passes it. It is advised to be a minimum of three seconds (longer would be preferable) when driving at night or in heavy rains or fog.

4. Appropriate signalling

While you should always be aware of the movements of vehicles around you, it is equally important that you notify other motorists on the road of your movements. Always indicate when changing lanes. In case you notice a diversion or an obstruction ahead that requires you to brake suddenly, turn on your hazards well before stopping and slow down. Make sure to indicate when re-joining the highway after a stop.

5. Overtaking

Our Car - Tata Hexa - final report.- Omkar Dhas/Autocar India

Our Car - Tata Hexa - final report.- Omkar Dhas/Autocar India

Another crucial aspect of highway driving is overtaking — correct judgement and timing are the primary points of focus. When on a dual-carriageway, judge the speed of the car in front of you, and keep an eye out for vehicles in the adjoining lane or those approaching from behind.

If the way is clear, pull out from the lane and make your move. It’s advisable to drop down a gear, as it will aid in acceleration. Once you have overtaken the vehicle, build the gap between you and the overtaken vehicle, and only then switch back.

On single carriageways, follow similar steps as mentioned above, but keep an eye out for oncoming traffic. Only pull into the oncoming lane if you feel a vehicle is far enough to safely execute the manoeuvre.

6. Check mirrors

It is very important to check your mirrors constantly. Make it a habit to glance at all three mirrors at regular intervals, particularly if you plan to change lanes. While overtaking and changing lanes, the first thing to do is to check if a vehicle is approaching from the rear. Beware of blind spots, as mirrors cannot project the entire view. You can install blind-spot mirrors, which are basically small fish-eye mirrors that can be attached to the side mirrors, to give you a wider range and help reduce blind spots.

7. Pit stops

Stopping at regular intervals is crucial while on long highway drives, as driver fatigue can be very dangerous, especially at highway speeds. Remember to stay hydrated and occasionally adjust the air-con. A change in temperature helps you stay more alert. If you are too drowsy, take a quick nap by the side of the road or swap drivers if you aren’t alone. Also, avoid letting the fuel level drop below quarter tank, as fuel stations may be hard to come by in places.

8. Rains/wet roads

When driving in wet conditions, restrict your speed and avoid wet patches and puddles as much as possible. Driving through pools of water at high speeds should be avoided at all costs, as it may lead to hydroplaning, wherein the tyres lose traction, causing the car to spin out of control. Also, avoid braking too hard, as it can lead to your vehicle skidding off the road or into another vehicle, due to the relative lack of grip. During heavy rains, keep the headlights on even during the day, as it helps other motorists see your vehicle. Use your hazards only if you come to a stop.

9. Night driving

Travelling during the night should be avoided as much as possible. However, if you must drive at night, proper visibility is essential. Keep your windshield clean and make sure all the lights are working. Aim the headlights as per your seating position and make sure you don’t set them too high, as they might disturb motorists ahead. Similarly, try not to use the high beam while overtaking, or when you are close to the vehicle ahead. Also remain alert at all times.


10. Breakdowns

In the event of a breakdown, it is important to keep calm and follow these steps. Slow down gradually and move to the shoulder of the highway. The car should be parked well under the shoulder lines, with the hazard lights on. Place the hazard triangle about ten to fifteen feet behind the car to warn other motorists. Examine the damage and accordingly call for assistance — it’s a good idea to have highway assistance contacts on hand or look for emergency call boxes. At night, switch on the interior lights to make the vehicle as visible as you can. Always try and stay in the vehicle until help arrives.

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