Driving on mountain roads requires appropriate precautions and behaviour to stay safe, especially in difficult weather conditions such as wet, snowy or icy roads.
Read on to find out what our experts have to say about driving safely on mountain roads.
How to be well prepared before the journey
Before you set off, we recommend that you take some safety precautions that will make your mountain driving more serene.
1 - Equip yourself with useful accessories
First of all, here is a non-exhaustive list of accessories that may be useful for your safety on a mountain road, especially in winter:
- a de-icing spray and a scraper to de-ice your windscreen and windows more quickly, for example if your car has been outside overnight in cold temperatures
- a shovel for snow removal
- a cardboard box to start the car if the wheels spin
- a blanket and warm clothes in case you are forced to wait in your car
- snacks and drinks
2 - Check the oil and coolant levels
No one likes to suffer from a breakdown, especially when the weather is cold and on exposed mountain roads, after all. To avoid this, we recommend that you check your oil level before setting off since this will be used to prevent the car's engine and other components from overheating. Coolant should also be topped up since this will help to maintain the engine's temperature beneath 100° C at all time. If the temperature should ever rise too high during your journey, the best thing to do would be to pull over at a suitable location and wait for a few minutes until the temperature drops.
3 - Check the headlights
On the road, it is essential to see and be seen, even more so on a mountain road where visibility can be made more difficult by fast-changing weather conditions and where there is no street lighting. Checking your headlights and tail lights will ensure that you are able to light your way and be seen by other motorists.
4 - Check the wipers
If it rains or snows, you'll need to rely on your windscreen wipers to ensure the best possible visibility. Also remember to check your windscreen washer fluid level.
5 - Check the tyres
There are two important things to check on your tyres:
- their level of wear.
- their pressure.
Tyre wear is inevitable over time and if it reaches the legal limit, it is dangerous to drive. This is because when the treads on your tyres have reached their maximum wear level, they are no longer able to offer the same performance, particularly on wet road. Find out how to check the wear level of your tyres.
Tyre pressure naturally decreases over time. A correct tyre pressure ensures good road handling, therefore a better safety, especially when driving downhill. It also prevents uneven and/or premature tyre wear. This is why it is strongly recommended to check the tyre pressure regularly, especially before going on a long journey or driving in the mountains.
Do you have the right tyres for driving on mountain roads?
Regular driving in the mountains exposes you to changing weather conditions which can sometimes become difficult. For your safety, it is therefore important to equip yourself with suitable, high-performance tyres.
Depending on the winter temperatures in your region, the snow cover and the risk of ice, certain tyres will ensure better safety and optimal performance. Discover our tips for choosing the right tyres.
Driving on mountain roads : safe driving tips
Mountain driving involves winding roads with varying degrees of gradient. Visibility can be reduced, bends are frequent and some can be sharp. Driving safely, even on dry roads, means adapting your driving behaviour.
- Always drive carefully and slowly, keeping a safe distance, especially if the road is wet, snowy or icy.
- Before a bend with poor visibility, slow down and don't hesitate to signal your arrival by blowing your horn. This allows potential oncoming drivers to be aware of your arrival before they see you.
Driving safely uphill
Slow down before each turn and accelerate gently through the curve. If a car's revs drop, then this is a sign that it is struggling with the incline. Rather than putting your foot to the floor, you should drop a gear and regain your control that way. This can be especially useful when cornering on a steep section of mountain road, such as on a switchback, for example.
Driving safely downhill
When driving downhill, use your brakes, but especially the engine brake: use the different gears of the gearbox to stay slightly over-revved in order to slow down the car.
Driving safely in winter
All these tips apply in winter too, but with extra precautions. Driving in the mountains in winter can expose you to more difficult weather conditions than in summer.
On snow or ice, your car behaves differently when braking. If you press the brake pedal too hard and suddenly, your car's wheels may lock and slide. Therefore, remember to brake slowly and gradually to give your tyres time to grip the surface and slow the car down.