What the Smokey Mountains the surround Cherokee doesn’t have in the way of jutting peaks and valleys of the Rockies in the Central US, it makes up for with abundant wildlife, trails galore, and – of course – the infamous hair-pin turns and steep declines on the roads and highways that vein around the hills and ridges.
Even though I’ve lived here all my life, I still am weary taking to the mountain roads and passes, and always drive on high alert.
Over time I’ve developed a few safety measure that I use every-time I drive to protect myself that I would like to share with you…
Be prepared for emergencies
Sometimes, you can be engaged in a car accident or there might be swift inclement weather. These can leave you stranded in mountainous areas for a long period.
So, before you leave your house, let a family member or friend know where you are going to and when you are expected to return, and make sure that you go along with extra clothing, first aid, food, water, and tools that can be used to fix some problems in case you do not get any roadside assistance.
Additionally, make sure you have a trusted towing service or roadside assistance service ready to call in case of a more serious accident or breakdown. While cell service can be spotty, it is usually fine around the major highways and road.
Here’s a great article on what to look out for when choosing a reliable on-call towing service.
Tune-up your car
You may need to give your car extra attention before you go on a trip through the mountains, most especially, after winter. Make sure that you fill-up the transmission and brake fluids. Ensure that the windshield wipers, brakes, exhaust, cooling and heating, and battery performance systems are working fine.
You should also ensure that you have a spare tire available and that you inflate the whole tires. Because of the unexpected weather, terrain, and events that may affect your car, make sure that you put your vehicle in optimal condition.
Most people do not understand that the quantity of fuel required to climb steep grades is more compared to the typical driving. Another thing is that you will hardly find a gas station in mountainous regions and there may not be a cell phone service. There are minimal shoulders and less visibility ahead in most mountain roads.
If you do happen to run out of fuel/gas, you will be at risk of having a car accident. To avoid this kind of situation, you should fill up your car before embarking on the journey.
Be cautious while using brakes
When you continuously use brakes on steep grades, the brakes will quickly get overworked. If you want to use it while declining, it would be better for you to quickly and lightly tap the brake pedal (tap method) so that they can remain cool. Anticipate steep and also observe speed signs. Brake before taking the plunge to hairpin turns.
Whenever you use brakes before turns, the forces will not shift to the front of the car, it will rather go to the back. This will give you more control of the vehicle and you will be able to pass through mountain roads easily.
Downshift first before downgrades
Steep topography requires you to downshift to the lower gear to have a better performance. This will help to limit the stress on the brakes of your vehicle as well as the engine and you can control your speed.
Ensure that this is done before you go downhill, as it will be dangerous for you to switch gears while on steep grades.
Make use of your headlights
You need your headlights when there is fog, dawn, snow, rain, dusk, and during the night. Whenever you are in doubt, make yourself completely visible with your headlamps to cars behind and in front of you.
Always remember to check that your headlights are working perfectly before you hit the roads.