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Old 17th March 2018, 16:37   #286
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Default Re: ARTICLE: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

Wonderful and very informative thread. Learned many points that I never thought of. I also switch off the audio while on the hills and open the windows so as to listen horns of on coming vehicles at blind turns.
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Old 25th April 2018, 10:50   #287
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Default Re: ARTICLE: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

Originally Posted by GTO View Post
Music should be low while passengers ought to avoid loud chatter.
I received this nice ad as a forward. It was prepared by the Department of the Environment, N. Ireland:

The DoE also have a nice road safety page.
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Old 24th July 2018, 22:23   #288
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Seeing a lot of self-drives and enthusiasts entering Uttarakhand and planning for the much hyped Char-Dham Roads despite the inclement weather and the onslaught of monsoons. It may not complete before 2019! As a caution, rains bring landslides and wash away the kuccha-road tops yet to be made into the much coveted highway. Seemed perfect to bring an update in this topic.

These days we can easily read the local newspaper as E-Paper Edition and lean about weather based incidents like landslides etc. Many self-drives are spotted on the Dehradun-Mussoorie hill tracts. Usually people plan trips with distance calculators and avoid layovers, continuing their hill climbs beyond Rishikesh and get stuck at some landslide for hours, tired and unable to plan an overnighter. It's not tough to spot tourists who mis-planned a weekender rushing back home on Sunday night, to attend office on Monday. Same with Haldwani-Nainital.

I see this often and would like to bring some Hill-Gyaan (Hill Driving Etiquette/Expertise). I'm also including trip planning in the post besides driving know-how.

I mainly talk about hill states like Uttarakhand, the Himalayas and it's lower mountain ranges.

Ghat Aficionados, do jump in! Leh'd? Pour your enlightened responses.

1. Be familiar with the terrain. Do not only rely on Map Apps. Get to know topography as well. Any Trail/Hiking App will help in case iPhone users find difficult to be on par with Google Earth or Elevation view in native apps. Acquire a general sense of what you may cross-by, elevation-wise. You can record your altitudes in X units of Feet - Above Sea Level with your Odometer readings!

Being on the wrong side of telephone towers could mean low-to-no connectivity, or weak internet connectivity if you manage to get a decent signal strength. Having signals and being able to fully use maps, high speed data for apps enables on the fly changes to the trip. While low on signals, even one faulty conversation will impact your trip planning. Being nearer to major districts helps to replan anything based purely on mobile communications. Do not ignore that little hamlet you just passed by, it had mobile coverage!

Learn to troubleshoot issues while offline, I wouldn't advise telepathy. But yes, the local hill folks are helpful if you don't talk to them in GPS coordinates. Higher up, they won't steal your mobile off the dashboard. Humanity prevails.

2. On any given day, a hill will have two sides - Sunny and Shade.

The sunny side may continue for 200 meters or 5 kilometers. The same applies to shade. Connecting these two are what we call 'turns' and they differ from the usual highway fare in the sense that that four wheels are most likely to be on a slightly different plane since the turns have elevation. It's completely different from a turn you take into your neighbourhood lane, or a turn that has traffic lights, pedestrian crossings.

A slight equivalent feeling of hilly turns would be to change lanes every 30 seconds on a dual carriageway for 10 kilometers. Thus discipline, presence of mind and knowing your vehicle's responses is highly sought.

3. For a taste of what it is, let's conduct a simple simulation on a 'highway Vs hill' drive. Take any card out from a wallet, better be your own wallet. Place it on a table. Now move it forward a little, then to the left and continue moving, then take a right turn, go ahead and take a u-turn and continue moving for 5 kilometers. That's a usual highway run. Simple. You decide your own speed. Possibly overtake someone safely and stick to your lane.

Continuing the simulation, now take the same card, move it ahead very slowly (remember we're in Hill mode now) and raise it higher from the table as we go ahead, take a left, then a right and then a u-turn :sly: and then a slight left, hard left and a right u-turn. Don't strain your hand, it's only a simulation, exciting, isn't it?

4. Unless roads are made to swerve, turn and u-turn multiple times, it would be impossible to make a road that could take you from elevation A to elevation A+ and finally to elevation B. Thus we have angular departure from the usual plane of obervation (known as the road ahead), an early peek at the nature of route ahead (similar to how we quickly glance at the rear view mirrors, but a lot quicker), estimation of the current inertia, required momentum and adjustment to speed while turning the steering, REturning the steering (the speed assisted auto return does not happen as much on all turns!) and avoiding oncoming traffic while maintaining the minimum speed required to cover a stretch in a given time.

All this while, the chassis, suspension and tires bear the kerb weight of your means of transport. The engine revs to outdo the resistance of gravity, maintain torque and balance out the increased friction from the tires. These parameters are important because the feedback from the vehicle enables the driver to be able to safely move ahead, while adjusting any deficit feedback by changing gears, pressure on the pedals, engine braking (on downhill stretches or even on an uphill climb with intermittent downhill patches) and general comfort.

5. On a long hilly drive (speed doesn't matter), just turn down the music, listen to the engine and observe how our senses minutely figure out many physics-based concepts on it's own. You may take years to single them out, though. Even if you do, you will possibly be driving a different vehicle with different dynamics or fuel type.

6. Due to inclines, distance/time calculators take a hit due to speed. So every kilometer takes more time to cover. An average 70 km/h calculation for the highway is doubled as speed drops to 35 kmph or lesser. I have myself discovered a '24 kmph' standard for good speed vs actual conditions for most hilly circuits. Any faster makes the drives risky, any slower will possible burn more petrol or overheat any modern engine. Yes, there are stretches where you go relatively faster risking safety of others and yourself, then the safety of your vehicle, possibly ruining your trip. My personal average speeds are between 12 kmph - 42 kmph for my own peace of mind.

Thus, you may either double your ETA's. Or learn to multiply by 24 as described above.

7. Since ETA's take a hit, on hills, do not take it for granted that you can easily drive upto 11 P.M., get some rest at your stopover/hotel and continue again at 5:30 A.M. the next day. Don't ever leave a hotel or waypoint thinking to drive through the night. Fog can get too dense to drive, and while you may copy others driving with headlights off-blinkers on, any mis-judgement will result in a mishap. Even finding a spot to safely park is difficult.

Recently, owing to Monsoons, Uttarakhand govt and road transport banned night time traffic except Emergency and Essential Services. This is due to large scale landslides and mud/muck on the roads causing accidents and even deaths of commuters.

I remember, earlier in my college days, my seniors organised an early morning bike trip out to the hills. They started too early, though. So at 3 A.M., at hill-route checkpost, somehow a student's face matched a culprit on the run and the entire entourage was arrested suspecting to be a gang. Something similar happened to a bunch of hostel girls sneaking out at 11 P.M. and going out on a car trip to a nearby hilltop temple, they drove without headlights in a friend's car and some police informant tipped off the next checkpost about a suspected movement since there were no exits on the route, only way up or down. The sense of the matter is, traffic police and disaster management agencies have a greater say on the freedom of movement.

Do not expect roads to have street lights! Even if a map says it is X National Highway.

8. It's a good idea to fool around before actually embarking on a trip. Usually a 2 kilometer round trip before departing can let you know of any niggles/issues with your vehicle. If you're good to go after this test drive/round trip, chances are your trip will go as usual.

9. On stretches where there's a caravan of vehicles moving at snail's pace, you're better off following them. Since curbs are not well defined, stone chips can shear the tires and it's sidewalls and this may need you to discard them at the end of a single trip. Not wise or economical at all. If anyone is overtaking, please bear in mind how you would drive if you were a local resident and had some family issue and had to quickly go somewhere (number plate doesn't matter).

10. Please give way to any essential services transport. Ambulances, vegetables carrying utility vehicles, small JCB's and Military vehicles do need you to give adequate leeway to pass. Not everyone honks unnecessarily to tell you that they have a much larger role and duty to the citizens/nation.

11. A good time schedule utilizes the best hours of mountain time: 11 A.M. - 3 P.M. During this time, you will actually find people on the roads (to ask for directions, waypoints, eateries, fuel? ) and the temperature, haze, fog etc are within good conditions for driving.

12. Since you'll experience asynchronicity and off-grid goodness, it's a good habit to buy/borrow the morning newspaper to read and scan for the national radio (fm rainbow 102.1).

13. If you encounter any unexplainable swerving of the vehicle, if the road has a hill side and a vallley on another, without going into the details of the problem, without wasting a split second, just turn the steering to the hill face. This is also known as ramming into the rocks. Then you can choose to brake, stop, slowly halt and alert oncoming traffic by hazard lamps, headlight etc. This emergency manoeuvre may scratch/dent one side but save precious life.
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