There’s nothing like curving through the mountains with your windows down. The cool, crisp air brushes your cheeks, the brilliant blue sky bounces rays of light off the aspens hugging the side of the road, and steep mountain faces tempt you to drive onward and upward. Whether you’re in the Rockies, the Appalachians, the Blue Ridge Mountains, or as far West as the Cascade Range, driving through the mountains can be an incredibly scenic and memorable adventure.
But, mountainous roads can also put a certain amount of strain on your vehicle, and can also pose difficulties for those used to driving in the flat-lands. To help you get the most out of your mountainous adventure, we’ve put together a list of tips and tricks for safe driving in the mountains.
When heading up into the mountain….
Fill up first. In some mountain ranges, towns are few and far between, and if you’re heading into a national park, know that gasoline is not sold within park boundaries.
Watch for wildlife. You’re in their territory now! The curves and switchbacks of mountainous roads could mean surprise animal encounters. Drive slowly, watch the edges of the road for animals attempting to cross, and pull over in designated turnouts to observe wildlife.
Drink, drink, drink! We’re talking about water, of course. At higher altitudes, dehydration could lead to symptoms of altitude sickness, like a headache, nausea, and dizziness.
Roll down your windows and turn off your air conditioning. Enjoy the fresh mountain air while you can. With average temperatures typically not rising as high during the summer months, windows-down weather occurs more often in the mountains. If the chilled mountain breezes just aren’t cooling you off, here are some more tips for staying cool without A/C.
When coming down the mountain…
Downshift. When going downhill, put the gearshift in 1, 2, or L, suggests the National Park Service. Your engine may sound louder when you do so, but you’ll keep your brakes from burning out. Continuous pressure on your brakes could cause them to become excessively hot and fail.
Stick to your lane. It can be tempting to fly down the mountain, cut corners, and hug the center line of the road, but doing so could lead to a serious collision with another car, the side of the mountain, or a guardrail.
Give the cars traveling uphill the right of way. Mountain roads are often only two lanes wide, so give passing vehicles plenty of time to make it back into their lane. You may need to give them more time than you normally would, as higher elevations reduce a car’s available horsepower, says Road Trip America. Your car, and the other cars on the road, may not perform as well at 10,000 feet as it does at sea level.
While there are unique challenges that come with driving in the mountains, the experience is unmatched, as are the scenic views. Whether you’re traveling up, over, or down the mountain, beware of falling rocks, branches, and wildlife. If your car is damaged in an event other than a collision, comprehensive coverage will usually pay for your car to be repaired or replaced. This type of insurance coverage can even be included in a cheap car insurance policy; go online to review your coverage or get a quick quote right now to see how affordable a policy with this car insurance coverage could be.