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Old 7th January 2013, 14:56   #31
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

Wonderful topic. Few points that I would like to mention from my limited experience:

1) Always check your headlights before starting a night drive on our highways. Make sure you carry a couple extra bulbs for the light and also educate yourself on how to replace a bulb in your car. Same goes for learning to replace your tire with the spare one. You'll be surprised to see how complicated some cars are in terms of removing a spare tire and operating the jack. (My Figo is an example, it's a nightmare for a first timer)

2) I for one, believe the "no-honking" that few practice here, though sounds very noble, is definitely something that will not work in a country like India. If you are approaching/about to pass a bike cruising lazily on the highway, even if on the left most lane, give a short honk and let them know of your presence. I've seen bikers cutting across 3 lanes in 1 second to cross over to the other side through a gap in the divider. I once had a very very narrow escape.

3) If I do not have any vehicles in my rear-view mirror and ahead, I will try to stick to the middle of the road. Yes, I might not be following the lane driving, but since there are no vehicles in front and behind you, it doesn't matter. This will give you enough time/space to react to those crazy surprises that will pop out from either sides of the road. Yeah, the happy grass-chewing cows on the divider might want to step down on to the road at times. This also works on rainy days when water will mostly be collected on the sides and driving through the middle lane makes you less susceptible to aquaplaning.

4) If you are following a pilot car at night (which I do quite a lot), make sure you are in low beam and also keep a safe distance of at least a 25-30 meters. You definitely do not want a high-beamer sticking to your boot for 100 odd kms at 100+ speeds.

5) One thing we tend to forget is filling up the washer fluid for the wipers. Make sure you top it up since it might prove a life saver on rainy days, and after a lot of moth & bug swatting you do on those "flowery" highways. Keep a couple of empty bottles in your boot just in case you forget to get it done before starting, your can fill it up during your break.

6) Never follow a fast moving truck/similar heavy vehicles. It'll be like a barrage or bullets hitting your windscreen. If there are 2 fast moving trucks running parallel, keep distance, and once one of the truck has completed the over taking manoeuvre, give it some time to gain sufficient gap and then overtake.

7) Avoid going over anything that lies on the road. It might look like a harmless polythene bag/fluffy thing, but never take chances, just steer clear and use the next lane.
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Old 7th January 2013, 15:29   #32
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

Thanks GTO, this is a very detailed list of things to keep in mind while on the highway.
Some more things that should be added:

While in a tunnel don't turn on your hazard lights, just turn on your headlights. Switching on hazard lights usually means a stranded or a slow moving car & may confuse the car following you.

Avoid being in the rightmost lane at the speed you think is high for you. This lane is meant for overtaking. Have seen a few tata nanos chugging along & not even giving an opportunity to others to overtake them.

Be extra mindful while turning at speeds above 100kmph in an empty car, not that you should not if it is full :-) but, as an empty car does not always hug the road that comfortably as a car with all passengers due to a high CoG. As a result you will not stray into other lanes then your own while taking a long turn thus impacting the other drivers.

Check your tire pressure each time you stop, considering that most people run on tubeless tires these days, people may not realize that they have a flat until they wait for a considerable time at any place. Also helps to carry a temporary puncture sealant kit & air pump for such ventures.

Never drive your car with headphones on ! People do that at times as the music on their phone is better then listening to the radio.

In a car with DVD screen preferably the same should only be for the rear passengers but if not possible the driver should try & stay un-distracted.

And the most important thing to remember don't pick up hitchhikers or stop for broken down cars. I know I might sound crazy here but its better to be safe than sorry, that said one should never leave the site of an accident without helping people there.

Last edited by Rehaan : 8th January 2013 at 13:41. Reason: better to be safe then sorry that, said one should never > moved comma 1 word earlier
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Old 7th January 2013, 15:32   #33
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

Originally Posted by smartcat View Post
Exhaustive list! Only somebody who has huge experience driving on our highways can come up with a list like this - covers pretty much everything.

The following two advice seems a bit odd (I mean, excessively cautious) though.
I second that. I feel, we should just use headlights instead of fog lights unless there is fog. Here are a few tips from my side that I religiously follow:

- Use a honk-watch-overtake approach. Alert a truck driver before moving past him. Making your presence felt is important as most highway users ignore what's behind them. Folded ORVM's are a giveaway for such people.

- While overtaking on 4-lane / 6-lane roads, ensure that the vehicle isn't gradually moving across the painted stripes into your lane. Watching the front tyre movement helps. I have had many friends brake hard as they were squeezed between the median and the vehicle they were almost half way past the vehicle.

- Do not use fog lights in normal night driving conditions. Fog lights hurt the eyes of other road users, especially of those following you if you have rear fog lamps.

- If you miss an exit or a u-turn on the highway do not swerve in haste or return in reverse. Find the next u-turn and drive back. A few minutes of extra driving won't hurt.
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Old 7th January 2013, 15:57   #34
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

Originally Posted by Thilak29 View Post
Very detailed and helpful thread.
Just to prove how fatal a night drive in high speeds could be here is a video of Palm beach Car Accident in Navi Mumbai
I'm just feeling good that the biker wasn't in the path of the drunk Figo! Good for him to be on the left.

Originally Posted by smartcat View Post
The following two advice seems a bit odd (I mean, excessively cautious) though.
1. Daytime Running Lights are proven safety tools. They are known to greatly prevent accidents. There's a reason that all Superbikes today have their headlights on by default (you can't switch them off).

2. The reason for the fog lamp being on is this : Your car might be in a position where the headlamps aren't visible to the car on the left / right. The lower placed fog lamps could be.

Also, even if a person isn't using his mirrors, there's little chance of him not noticing 4 lights.

Keeping the lights running on the highway is a practice I've been following diligently for 5 years now. On Indian roads, you'd rather be over-prepared than under.

Originally Posted by 2500cc View Post
do you what this probably could mean ?
This only means that he's an idiot for inventing his own type of communication.

Originally Posted by ghodlur View Post
Request you to add any additional points applicable in case of chaffuered cars too.
We do have a safety article on chauffeurs lined up

Originally Posted by 2500cc View Post
I agree with this, night driving can be very safe:
1. You wont miss the oncoming vehicles due to headlights.
There are certainly some advantages to highway driving at night. However, the cons far outweigh the pros:

the overall nighttime crash rate is approximately 1.6 times that of the daytime rate, while the fatal crash rate is three to four times greater at night.

Traffic death rates are three times greater at night than during the day, according to the National Safety Council.

Relevant to India:

1. How many commercial vehicles have good headlamps, when so many of them don't even have working brake lights?

2. With no police enforcement on highways to curb drinking & driving, is there any doubt that the number of drunk drivers will be higher at night?

3. Post-incident medical support is delayed in India as it is. The response time at night will be even poorer than the day.

4. Crime rates are higher at night. For instance, all the dacoity routes I know of close to Mumbai (e.g. Panvel bypass, Shirdi road) only have gangs hitting cars at night. Never during the day for obvious reason.
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Old 7th January 2013, 16:03   #35
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

Originally Posted by 90BHP View Post
Never drive your car with headphones on ! People do that at times as the music on their phone is better then listening to the radio.
I've seen this on 3 occasions till now. On a drive to Mumbai, at the toll plaza, I noticed one dude wearing full KOSS headphones (semi noise cancellation).
I recognized the set cause I have the same one.
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Old 7th January 2013, 16:09   #36
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

Originally Posted by GTO View Post
2. With no police enforcement on highways to curb drinking & driving, is there any doubt that the number of drunk drivers will be higher at night? .
You just cannot stress this point enough.
I regularly do night driving or evening driving on NH1.
Post 8pm, walk into any Dhaba on the highway. Veg/non veg does not matter.
What will greet you first is the stink of alcohol.
More than 50% of people you will see there are so drunk that they murmer the order to waiters and have trouble pulling chairs.
The highway is littered with liquor shops. and you will see a huge rush of vehicles parked and people drinking in the cars.

If you think you should take the bus, here are other facts for you.

Every night bus I have ever taken(Govt owned buses/volvos etc.,) the driver in drunk.
Infact when bus stops at a dhaba(usually low quality with very expensive food), the driver and conductor are taken to a back room and served alcohol for free so that they keep coming to the dhaba and the owners can make a quick buck. Otherwise nobody pays 20rs for tea at dhabas.

Add to that, while the traffic police are over enthusiastic in challaning cars doing 91 in 90kmph zone in the interest of safety, once the sun sets they dissappear, and there is no policing or checking for drunk driving.

Around industrial towns I have seen trucks go past police check posts with iron rods sticking out of the back.
The police will happily stop you and ask silly questions, and they try to extract 100-200rs in the name of PUC or some other violation, but all these murder weapons on the road go stock free.

Its a jungle out there during the day, and night gets only worse.

If you are expert in surviving all this, NHAI does the rest by creating unmarked diversions here and there in the under construction highways.
Suddenly you would see a 4 lane road go only to one side, with no signboards on the oncoming side warning users that their carriageway is 2 way now.
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Old 7th January 2013, 16:15   #37
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

GTO you have summed it up extremely well and trust me this can be used as basic thumb rule / guidelines for almost everybody. Even an experienced driver at times tend to make silly mistakes and the repercussions are quite bad.

Good to print this and give it to your near and dear ones to begin with. Way to go GTO
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Old 7th January 2013, 17:52   #38
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

Originally Posted by GTO View Post
NEVER, ever coast in neutral gear ?

NEVER ever roll down a decline in neutral gear. ?
Can anybody clarify why should we not use neutral gear while driving in highways or city?
According to me when we put to neutral, vehicle in free flow and no gear is obstructing/holding the vehicle. It can pull the car at decent speed till I want to either stop it by applying brake completely or increase the speed by shifting gears and accelerating.
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Old 7th January 2013, 17:52   #39
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

Thank you for sharing such a nice compilation of tips GTO.
Thought of sharing a few more, which although may not be as useful, but can be a lifesaver at times :

1. Sometimes, especially on narrow 2 lane highways you may have to pull your vehicle to the extreme left to give way to an oncoming vehicle such that your left side tires are off the road and onto the side path, under such circumstances avoid pulling back onto the road when the level between the tarmac and the road-side is high as the sharp edge of the road can lead to cuts on the side-wall of your your tire and maybe even cause a tire burst at such high speeds. While pulling back onto the road do so at an angle to the edge of the road and at a slower speed to avoid side wall cuts.

2. If the right side of your vehicle is on normal tarmac with good grip, and the left side of your vehicle is running over some gravel(or any surface with relatively less traction), then hard braking may cause the left side tyres to lock up, and the car itself will steer to the right. ie. while braking hard ensure that both sides of your vehicle are on a surface with similar traction.

3. Tip learned from a friend's unpleasant experience : Avoid messing around with local villagers on the highways even if you have a much faster ride. They often have friends/relatives(with mobile phone access) in the next village or Toll stop.

4. Do not try to re-adjust(slide) the driver seat position at high speeds, especially if you are driving downhill.

5. Be very careful while putting your hand through the steering wheel spokes towards the speedo console(to reset the trip meter, etc.). Remember your left and right hands are controlled by different parts of your brain, therefore your left hand may steer the steering as a reflex action to avoid an oncoming obstacle and your right hand may get stuck in there, and may even cause the vehicle to go off road or hit the obstacle.

6. Do not keep objects like water bottles, shoes etc. on the driver's foot board, as they may may unknowingly roll/slide and go below the brake paddle.

7. While it is never advisable to look at your phone while driving, however if you still have to(even for a brief moment), then make sure that you hold your phone straight in front of you. That way your eyes will still be able to see any sudden thing that may happen on the road(in the background) and react to it.

8. Avoid hanging Dolls/Soft toys below the rear view mirror, they can become a major blind spot for the driver, and may even hide something as big as a on coming car(which is at a distance).

9. Tip for overtaking on curvy roads like long highway ghats : Before overtaking a vehicle on a left-curve, first see from the left of the vehicle to get a better view of the on coming vehicles along the curve, and then overtake from the right.

10. In a panicky situation always focus more on where you want your vehicle to go, rather than focusing on what is coming at you. Because your brain has this strange tendency of taking you in the direction where you are focusing.

Thanks & Regards,
Manesh Nambiar.
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Old 7th January 2013, 18:25   #40
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

GTO, as always. a wonderfully written comprehensive article for anyone using the highways in India, your extensive experience on the highways shines through this one.
The concept of the sweeper car is something I have followed for a long time now and it has worked very well. In most cases after about 30-45 minutes of following the sweeper, many a sensible driver slows down and expects you to take that position and if this vehicle is headed towards your destination this is even better.
However, beware there can be exceptions and they come in some of the best cars!! On 30th Jan when driving from Trivandrum, at Salem I caught up with a black Audi A4 with a PY number plate, I followed him beyond Dharmapuri and he then seemed to slow down to let me take over, and I did. All seemed peaceful for the next 15 to 17 minutes until we came to a gradient which had a heavy vehicle on the left lane. I saw the Audi trailing behind me and decided to overtake the truck, the next thing I know is I find the back Audi overtake me from the left and trying to squeeze into the gap between me and the truck fortunately I had just that gap to go past, the bloke in the Audi seemed to have misjudged and I had assumed that people in expensive cars have some road sense!!
So to add to GTO's list Do NOT assume the "common sense of the driver" based on the logo on the car
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Old 7th January 2013, 19:27   #41
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

I have one add-on point for the women who drive on road-trips - I always have 1 tested bottle of pepper spray in the glove compartment. Though, have driven over 10,000 km in India alone or with one/two other women and haven't had occasion to use it ever.

Also, I normally give an itinerary with booking information and telephone numbers of each hotel I may be staying at. Also carefully calculate how long it will take you to get from point A to B. I prefer to start driving by 5am so that my driving is done by dusk. Night time driving is a risk I dont want to take because of my gender and general driving conditions.
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Old 7th January 2013, 19:29   #42
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

Originally Posted by advaitlele View Post
Can someone help me here. I have read in multiple online blogs / forums about driving in neutral when approaching known stop / tollbooth etc. Why is it dangerous to be in neutral gear when you know the stop is -- lets say 300 mtrs away; and you can reduce the speed gradually?
Originally Posted by veerubhai View Post
Can anybody clarify why should we not use neutral gear while driving in highways or city?
According to me when we put to neutral, vehicle in free flow and no gear is obstructing/holding the vehicle. It can pull the car at decent speed till I want to either stop it by applying brake completely or increase the speed by shifting gears and accelerating.
I find it quite amusing that such misconceptions are not thought out properly. It is possible you guys may know actual reasons but not able to reason with and understand it properly.

Neutral means freely drifting vehicle, whether running or not running
Geared means driven (and not drifting) by engine restricted by the Brake-Force of the engine running in Gear

Mind well the underlined outlined wording above.

When in a situation requiring sudden control what will be more useful, a freely drifting vehicle or a vehicle in a mode which can give that additional brake-force?

1. When arriving at tolls, it is not at all correct to get into neutral unless you are coming to standstill. In this forum only, you may find references to accidents that have been caused due uncontrollable over-speeding at toll booths as well.

You rather be in the gear without acceleration from decently safe range and let the engine decelerate naturally to lower speeds assisted by the additional Braking, shift to lower gears as the speeds go down and come to standstill as you finally land the toll. What happens here is, economically, due to not wasting your engine's energy and letting engine use up the fuel already pumped in for burning while acceleration and hence saving additional fuel consumption due to unnecessary braking without letting engine's brake-force be used, the FE will be bettered. For this it means that you have to judge a decent distance wherein you have to stop accelerating, that you may have been doing on the highway uptil then.

BUT, more than that, for instance some moron tries to oversmart and gets in the way, you have both the Brake forces, Engine Brake-force and Brake Brake-force to assist you control your vehicle better to avoid any untoward situation and may help land you in a situation with least damage.

2. On slopes you may feel you are achieving greater FE by not letting engine do any work and save fuel that way, by not accelerating and flowing in neutral. However, that may be true to some extent (remember, engine is still running and so is consuming some fuel without any work), it doesn't assist you in controlling vehicle in worst situation by not having at hand that additional Brake-force that engine braking provides. This is more so when you are on a muddy/slushy/terrain sloppy terrain/road.

Consider a sudden cotrol required by the onslaught of vehicle(s) around a turn or even on straight line, what will assist you better on that slope, only additional and natural braking that you may get.

The answer lies in the phrase in the question of "vehicle in free flow and no gear is obstructing/holding the vehicle".

It is that "gear is obstructing/holding the vehicle" itself is the key in situations that require it utmost and those situations don't come knowingly.

Hence as a rule of thumb, follow to NOT USE NEUTRAL unless it is required while running.

Do you know that, in neutral and engine is not running, on a slope with decent traffic, there is a high chance you may land in a troubled situation in free-wheeling? Your brake may just not work out. This is also reason when you park your vehicle on a slope/incline, in addition to handbrake, you should leave reverse/first gear engaged so as to aid the brake and hold vehicle at its place.
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Old 7th January 2013, 19:46   #43
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

Wonderful topic GTO! Nicely written.

Couple more from my viewpoint..

"Sweeper Car" - A nice term! If possible, choose a vehicle with similar dimensions as the car you drive. And yes, think twice before choosing any state owned vehicle as sweepers (they care much less about road conditions!).

At night, folding ORVMs helps. Needs to be compensated by looking at cab lighting though. I use only inner mirror on night rides with a slight tilt.

Always watch out for vehicles with no tail lamps.

Keep alternating between high and low beams every now and then, even when there is no traffic. This helps to keeps eyes moving constantly and in seeing better.

Keep list of planned / expected break points and half-hourly milestones. Gives a good feel of safety in terms of where you are and if possible a (mental) list of what to do next.
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Old 7th January 2013, 22:49   #44
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Originally Posted by TheQuarterMile View Post
What I don't understand is why do people switch on the hazards in a tunnel? Aren't they supposed to be using the parking light? Hazards are suppose to be used when parked on the side of the highway, heavy breaking and low visibility in case of fog or heavy rainfall.
Hazards are supposed to be used only when parked on the side or if you are braking having noticed an accident/obstruction ahead. Hazards are NOT to be used during heavy rain or fog, that's what tail lights and rear fog lights are for. Remember, if you use your hazards, you cannot indicate a lane change move which may be especially dangerous if you HAVE to make one!

Originally Posted by veerubhai View Post
Can anybody clarify why should we not use neutral gear while driving in highways or city?
According to me when we put to neutral, vehicle in free flow and no gear is obstructing/holding the vehicle. It can pull the car at decent speed till I want to either stop it by applying brake completely or increase the speed by shifting gears and accelerating.
To add to Parsh's response to your question:

Most cars have booster assisted brakes that use the engine to produce pressure that aids braking. If the engine is spinning at neutral, it will provide less assistance to braking than if it is, say at 2000 RPM. Try this: If you are coasting in netural, apply the brakes gently and then release the cluch into gear; you will feel the pedal going in a bit more as the booster gets more assistance from increased engine RPM.

As far as FE is concerned: Modern engines will use almost 0 fuel when rolling in gear (accelerator off, gear on). This can be seen when cars with MID show current consumption as 0.0 L/100 km. The momentum of the car is used to rotate the engine, thus saving precious fuel. There are some stretches where you can go for literally kilometers in 5th without needing to use the brakes, such as the last bit of the bottom while decending on the Mumbai-Pune expressway towards Mumbai.

Finally, 2 seconds of braking at 100km/h will generate heat that is MANY TIMES more than 2 seconds at, say, 50 km/h. It won't be double or triple but multiple times as hot. Thus, in 2 seconds you could cause considerable heat, leading to brake fade by the time you reach lower speeds. This is one of the (many) reasons why drivers struggle to stop at toll plazas on high speed highways (Expressways and GQ quality highways). Simply foot off the gas when you see the first sign for a toll plaza, 5th-4th-3rd, light braking, 3rd-2nd and then brake for the halt. Obviously you have to let the speeds reduce so that you don't shift to high RPM in a lower gear too suddenly.

Last edited by Technocrat : 8th January 2013 at 00:39. Reason: Please use the EDIT or MULTI-QUOTE buttons instead of typing one post after another on the same thread. Thanks
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Old 7th January 2013, 23:10   #45
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re: Safe Driving on Indian Highways & Ghats

GTO, I highly appreciate you for this article. It's a long time since the forum got one such well-knitted thread!

I would like to add a couple of things more to what you have suggested, just out of personal experience.

Never undertake any major mechanical work just before setting off on a long journey. However, this applies to oil changing too. Once I was stranded because the mechanic forgot to tighten the plug in the oil sump! Always drive your car for two-three days for short distances after any visit to workshop before you go on a long journey.

If possible carry sufficient water for cleaning the windshield. Once at Parli, Maharashtra, I used the water from one of the dhabas to clean the windshield at sundown. A short while down the road, the water created such a coating of oil on the windshield, I had to stop at least four times to clean it, using shampoo and Bisleri bought at roadside shops. Ever since I carry two large bottles of water from home exclusively for windshield cleaning.
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