Planning and Anticipation:
As with all roads you will need to plan well ahead in order to give yourself the maximum amount of time to react to any upcoming hazards. Using your anticipation skills will help you to react safely to any hazards you encounter.
Road holding is the grip your vehicle has with road whilst it is moving. It is very important you understand what factors will affect the effectiveness of your vehicles grip.
At different times different wheels will be responsible for different amounts of grip, for example.
• Acceleration pushes the weight of the car backwards onto the rear wheels.
• Braking will transfer more weight to the front wheels giving them more responsibility for the grip (up to 80% under very heavy braking).
• When cornering to the left, the wheels on the right side of the car will bear the weight and so the most responsibility for grip.
• When cornering to the right, the left side of the car will bare the most weight and so the most responsibility for grip.
Because of this it is important not to be braking whenever possible on a bend or corner. This would transfer the weight of the car both forwards and to one side putting too much responsibility for the grip on one wheel, either front left or right. This would increase the chances of a skid.
Always enter a bend at a speed at which you can negotiate it safely without having to brake further.
External Factors Affecting Road Holding:
There are several factors that affect road holding that must be considered when driving.
• Wet roads: Will double your braking distances (brake earlier progressively).
• Surface water: Can cause the car to pull to one side if the wheels on one side of your car goes through it. This is caused because of the extra resistance experienced by the wheels in the water (keep a firm grip of the wheel and come off the gas).
• Aquaplaning: Occurs when you enter any standing water too quickly and water gets trapped between the tyres and road surface. Steering will become light and you will lose traction (come off the gas, do not brake and keep firm hands on the wheel).
• Floods and fords: If you come across a flood or ford then you must stop and assess if safe to proceed. If so, you must drive slowly so as not to displace the water. Use first gear with high revs whilst slipping the clutch. Having gone through you must test your brakes before proceeding further.
• Snow and ice: Can increase your braking distances by ten times. Your view of the road ahead and the road markings can be obscured (drive slowly increasing your separation distances, brake early and gently going into lower gears much earlier than you would normally). Remember when approaching any hazard in the snow or ice it is vital you have slowed down and are in the correct gear well before you arrive. Always have an escape route in mind in case the worst should happen.
• Black ice: The invisible hazard. This occurs when rain freezes on the road as it falls. Try to anticipate this may happen by taking note of the conditions. Your steering will become light as you go over it (do not brake when on the ice).
Most Common Cause of Skidding:
The most common cause of skidding is driver error. Skids don’t just happen and they are caused by the driver demanding too much from the car in the conditions at the time.
Other factors involved are the vehicle itself and the road conditions, but the driver should know the limitations of their vehicle and change the way they drive the vehicle to cope with any changes in conditions. Always consider the condition of the road surface. Where skidding is concerned, prevention is better than cure!Bends:
Advanced drivers use a technique called ‘limit point analysis’ to assess a bend on the approach. The limit point is the farthest point along a road to which you have a clear and uninterrupted view of the road surface, i.e., the point along the road where both sides of the carriageway appear to meet in a point.
To use this technique simply ask yourself as you approach each bend, “is the limit point coming closer?” If it is then begin to reduce your speed on the straight until the point where your speed and the speed at which the limit point appears to move are the same. On every bend the final bit of analysis is when the limit point begins to move away from you and your view opens up. This is the point you can begin to accelerate away from the bend.
The technique of ‘limit point analysis’ takes a bit of practice but it will help you to link your speed with your range of vision and allow you to stop in the distance you can see to be clear.
Dealing with bends.
Plan well ahead to spot signs, road markings and the bend early. On approach use the MSM routine. Your view may be restricted so be aware you may not be able to see oncoming traffic, pedestrians or other obstructions.
• Position: Left hand bend – Stay centre of your lane. Right hand bend – Stay left side of your lane.
• Speed: Brake early and progressively so as to be at the safe speed you want to take the bend before you enter it. Avoid braking or coasting on the bend as this will reduce grip.
• Gear: Be in the correct gear for the speed you are going before you enter the bend.
• Exiting the bend: If safe then check your mirrors, pick up speed and make progress.
When approaching an uphill gradient, you must look well ahead for any signs warning you of the steepness. Anticipate the affect the hill will have on the performance of the car and approach at the correct speed and in the correct gear to cope with it using the MSM routine.
• Braking will slow the car more quickly.
• You will need more gas to maintain your speed.
• Releasing the gas pedal will slow the car more than usual. (Engine braking has more effect)
• The car will slow more while changing gear (quick gear changes required).
• When overtaking you will accelerate more slowly, and oncoming traffic will be moving more quickly.
• Cornering is harder work for the engine.
When approaching a downhill gradient, you should look well ahead for any signs warning of the steepness or instructing you to select a low gear. As with uphill you must anticipate the affect the hill will have on the performance of the car. Approach at the correct speed and in the correct gear to cope with it using the MSM routine.
• Braking will take longer.
• You must brake earlier to slow or stop the car.
• The engine will find it harder to hold your speed back. (Engine braking has less effect)
• The car will speed up when the clutch is depressed to change gear (quick gear changes are required, and you may need to control the speed with the brake).
• Use a low gear to control the speed on a steep hill to protect the brakes from brake fade and overheating.
Brows of hills and dead ground:
• Brow of a hill – Position well to the left and ease off the gas when you come over the top of the brow. Your view is restricted, and your speed will increase when you come onto the flat or down hill section.
• Dead ground – Dead ground is caused by the road rising and falling over hilly ground. Dead ground is the stretch of road not in view at the bottom of a dip in the road before it rises on the other side. Plan well ahead to spot any vehicles disappearing from view into dead ground. If you see this and you have not seen the car reappear further ahead then be more cautious on approach. Any dip in the road can cause this situation and could be hiding any number of potential hazards. (Remember: WHAT IF!)