Driving on Curves & Hills
Driving on Curves

Driving Through Curves: Tips & Instructions to Navigating Winding Roads

Updated Dec. 11, 2020

When driving through any curve in the road, the circular pathway of your vehicle will create a centrifugal force that pulls it toward the outside edge of the curve. 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. A strong outward pull will reduce the grip your tires have on the pavement and could cause you to skid off the side of the road, or into another lane of traffic.

The force of the outward pull is greater the sharper the curve and the faster your vehicle is traveling. In this module, we discuss how to assess upcoming curves in the roadway and reduce speed appropriately while adjusting your position in the lane. 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. Keep in mind that blind bends pose an additional risk, as you will not be able to see vehicles and hazards in the road at the far end of the curve.

Ask yourself the following questions when approaching a curve in the road:

  1. Can you see the exit of the curve? (i.e. is it a blind curve?)
  2. Are there any other restrictions to your line of sight?
  3. How sharp is the curve?
  4. Is the roadway flat or banked around the curve?
  5. Does the road curve to the left or the right?
  6. How wide is the lane and is there a safe shoulder present?
  7. What is the posted speed limit?
  8. How heavy is the traffic?

The answers yielded will help you to adjust your speed and position for maximum safety while approaching the curve.

Negotiating different types of curve

No two curves in the road are quite the same. Negotiating curves safely begins with identifying the general characteristics of the roadway and understanding how they may affect your vehicle. Keep in mind that a single curve in the road may have several of the characteristics discussed below. Many of these require drivers to make multiple adjustments in speed and lane position throughout the curve.

  1. 1

    Decreasing radius curves.
    These become sharper as the driver moves through the curve.

  2. 2

    Increasing radius curves.
    These become less sharp as the driver moves through the curve.

  3. 3

    Constant radius curve.
    These maintain the same sharpness throughout the curve and are relatively easy to navigate as a result.

  4. 4

    Blind curves.
    All or most of the road ahead will be obscured by the curve.

  5. 5

    “S” curves.
    The road curves in one direction and then immediately, in the other direction. Such curves are tricky to navigate and often take drivers by surprise.

  6. 6

    Banked curves.
    The road will be higher on one edge than the other. These curves can increase or decrease the effect of the centrifugal force acting on your vehicle.

  7. 7

    Uphill curves.
    Maintaining a constant speed will require progressively greater pressure on the gas pedal throughout the curve.

  8. 8

    Downhill curves.
    The vehicle will increase speed without acceleration as it moves through the curve.

Positioning your vehicle when driving through curves

Motorists must be prepared to adjust their lane position several times while driving through a curve. Generally, approaching a curve while positioned just inside the right edge of the roadway is the safest move, as this will keep you as far away from oncoming traffic as possible.

As you move through the curve and reach the center point, you can adjust your position towards the center of the road (while staying in your lane) to maximize your view of the road ahead. This will also make you more visible to oncoming traffic and minimize the amount of steering you need to do when moving out of the curve.

Driving through a right-hand curve can be problematic – especially on narrow roads where visibility is limited. If there is little to no other traffic around, drivers traveling around the curve in the opposite direction may veer into your lane. In this situation, it is safer to adopt an early position close to the centerline as you approach the curve. From this position, you can more easily be seen by opposing traffic approaching the curve, before they are in danger of drifting over the centerline.

Safety precautions

When approaching a blind curve, it may be impossible to see drivers traveling in the opposite direction, or for them to see you. Some state driving manuals advise motorists to sound their horns to warn opposing traffic, when coming up to a blind curve. If this is permitted or mandatory in your area, details will be found in your state driver’s handbook. When driving at night, you can achieve the same effect by briefly raising your high-beam headlights as you approach a blind curve. This is generally permitted nationwide.

How to drive through a curve: step-by-step

Knowing how to adjust speed through a curve in the road is crucial to your safety. When driving through a curve, drivers must follow these steps:

  1. 1

    Brake in a smooth and controlled manner to reduce speed.
    Ease the pressure off the brake as you near the center of the curve. Never apply the brakes part way through a curve in the road.

  2. 2

    As the road ahead comes into view (usually around halfway through the curve) begin applying gradual pressure to the accelerator.
    This will improve your grip on the road as you exit the curve.

  3. 3

    Never brake, accelerate or steer sharply when moving through a curve as you will lose traction.

If in doubt, it is always better to enter a curve as slowly as possible. Remember that adverse road conditions will decrease traction and reduce the speed at which your vehicle will skid. If ice, snow, chemicals or water are making the road surface slick, you will need to cut your speed even more than usual.

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