Driving on Curves & Hills
Driving Through Curves & Hills

Driving Through Curves & Hills: Advanced Driving Rules and Tactics

Updated Dec. 11, 2020

Curved roads and hills are most frequently encountered on rural roads and remote stretches of highway, though you may sometimes need to deal with them in urban and residential areas too. We discuss the tactics needed to drive safely through curves and hills in this section, as both phenomena are accompanied by similar risks and challenges.

When driving through a stretch of road that is not flat, or straight, a motorist must contend with additional forces acting on their vehicle. Adjustments in speed and lane position must be made to counteract these forces and maintain control. Furthermore, the line of sight may be impeded by the mid-point of a curve or the crest of a hill.

The dangers of decreased visibility

When your view of the road ahead is limited by a curve in the road or hill, you must decrease your speed and proceed with extreme caution. You may not be able to see vehicles, pedestrians, animals or other obstructions in the road until you are too close to them to stop if you are traveling too fast.

Never attempt to pass another vehicle if there is a hill or a curve in the road blocking your line of sight. Remember, you must be able to see at least one-third of a mile ahead in order to execute a pass safely.

When approaching a curve’s mid-point or the crest of a hill, avoid driving too close to the centerline. If another motorist cannot see you approaching from their side of the curve or hill and has strayed over the centerline, you could be hit head-on.

Driving through curves

In this module, we will discuss the centrifugal force which acts on a vehicle moving along a curved road and the techniques you must employ to counteract its effect. With this powerful force pulling away from the direction you are steering, it is easy to lose control, skid or roll the vehicle when driving through a curve too fast.

Different types of curves involve different risks and require different countermeasures – an issue which we explore in more detail in this section. You will also learn about the advantages and disadvantages of different lane positions when driving through a curve and find out how to position your vehicle safely. With the information from this module, you will develop the skills needed to assess upcoming curves in the road and make all adjustments necessary to avoid accidents and collisions.

Driving through hills

When driving uphill or downhill, gravity will affect the speed of your vehicle. In this situation, drivers may need to drop into a lower gear and accelerate or brake to maintain a safe speed. Uphill driving presents a particular challenge, as gravity increases strain on the engine and could lead your vehicle to overheat or begin rolling backward. Learn how to manage these problems in our “Driving through hills” module. This section also discusses the dangers posed by extremely large or heavy trucks on hills and the precautions you should take when driving with such vehicles nearby.

Hilly, mountainous areas can be especially problematic for motorists, as most vehicles are designed to operate at or close to sea level. Thin air at high altitudes can adversely affect practically every mechanical system in your vehicle, adding further challenges to uphill and downhill driving. Find out what you can do to counteract weakened acceleration, engine overheating, vapor lock and altitude sickness in the latter portion of this section.

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Driving on Curves
Driving on Curves & Hills 2 of 3

Driving Through Curves

You do not need to be a rocket scientist to navigate curves in the road safely, though you will need to understand the forces acting on your vehicle and learn how to maintain control. When driving through any curve in the road, the circular pathway of your vehicle will create a centrifugal force which pulls it toward the outside edge of the curve. Always be on the lookout for curves in the road ahead of you and make any necessary speed and position changes as soon as possible.

Driving on Hills
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Driving on Hills

Driving on hills presents many of the same challenges as driving on a curved road. Your ability to see opposing traffic may be impeded by the crest of the hill and additional forces will be acting on your vehicle. Whereas centripetal and centrifugal forces will affect your car while driving through a curve, hill driving means you must contend with gravity. The steeper the hill, the greater this effect will be.

Driving in Heavy Traffic
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Driving in Heavy Traffic

Heavy traffic is a major contributing factor to many complex risk environments, such as limited access highways, urban areas, complex intersections and multi-lane roads. When sharing the roadway with a large volume of other motorists, drivers must be able to multitask. While monitoring the area around your vehicle, you will also need to scan the road ahead, position your vehicle appropriately, maintain a safe speed and ensure you are in the correct lane.

Residential Driving 1 of 3

Driving in Residential Neighborhoods

Motorists are generally exposed to far less danger when driving in residential neighborhoods, than they are when driving in a city or on a major highway. Nevertheless, the risk of being involved in an accident or collision in a residential neighborhood is high – particularly when traveling close to home.

Residential Driving 2 of 3

Special Use Lanes

One of the first things you must learn when driving in residential, suburban and urban neighborhoods is that not all traffic lanes are designed to be used in the same way. To increase public safety and minimize congestion, “special use” lanes and road features, such as one-way streets, center left turn lanes, reversible lanes and roundabouts are present in some areas.

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Parking Risks

Searching for a parking spot amid crowded road conditions can lead drivers to behave less courteously and safely than they would usually. It is easy to overlook road rules and become frustrated with other drivers, when competing with many other motorists for just a handful of parking spaces.

Driving on Rural Roads 1 of 3

Driving on Rural Roads

Driving on rural roadways can be every bit as dangerous as driving on high-speed freeways or crowded city roads. The dangers themselves are fewer on rural roads, though the overall risk is greater. Limited visibility, lack of road signs, careless driving and changeable roadways conditions make rural traffic fatalities tragically common.

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Dangers on Rural Roads

Despite the slow pace of life, low traffic volume and quiet countryside which typify most rural communities in America, drivers are more likely to be involved in a fatal accident on a rural road than they are anywhere else. In 2016, the NHTSA recorded 37,461 traffic deaths overall. Of these fatalities, 18,590 (50 percent) occurred in rural areas.

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Approaches to Rural Driving

Staying safe on rural roads depends on remaining alert, giving yourself the best possible view of the road ahead and making sure you have enough time to stop or maneuver to avoid a collision. Do not take any chances if your feel yourself tiring on a rural road. Find the next safe place to pull over and consider taking a short nap before proceeding on your journey.