There are many perks to living in East Tennessee, but one that stands out to the G3 Help Me team is the region’s central location— not only in the state, but in the country. With an under-12-hour drive time to more than a dozen nearby states, Tennessee offers open roads in all directions and beautiful scenic views along the way.
However, while it’s nice for Knoxville residents to have access to the mountains in a mere sixty minutes, it also comes with its own unique safety risks. No matter how much we love living in East Tennessee, it’s hard to deny the danger mountains pose when driving through them at high speeds (and let’s be honest, locals aren’t typically rounding those curves with caution).
Common concerns when driving through the mountains
Driving through the mountains can feel intimidating for so many reasons. For city folks who aren’t as used to the slimmer roads and the lack of traffic lights, there are obvious concerns. But for those of us who feel well seasoned on these roads, there are the things you can never control. No matter how used to mountain road conditions you are, nearby wooded areas and natural erosion increase the likelihood of wildlife running out into the road or falling rocks hitting your car. It’s scary to think about, and most people probably assume it’ll never happen to them. We’re here to help ensure it doesn’t…
Here are four important tips for keeping yourself and your loved ones safe when driving through the mountains:
- Avoid overheating your engine. According to Allstate, “steep uphill and downhill grades may put an extra strain on your vehicle’s main components, from your engine to your brakes. Fortunately, you can take certain precautions to help your vehicle, whether you’re going up or down a mountain road.”
To avoid this, you can shift into a lower gear to level off your speed or turn off your air conditioner to help reserve engine power. If all else fails and your vehicle begins to overheat while driving up or downhill, the Allstate blog recommends “turning on your car’s heater to its highest setting… this can help to ‘bleed off’ some of the engine’s extra heat, which might buy you some time until you can safely pull over.”
- Pay attention to the road signs. Everyone knows why it’s important to obey the speed limit, but many don’t pay enough attention to the signs. In curvy mountain areas, it’s especially critical to note the changing speed limit around you. While it may feel like going 50+ miles per hour around the curves is second nature, they’re typically a lot lower for a very good reason.
In addition to speed limit signs, it’s important to make note of other signs when driving through mountain ranges. More often than not, there will be signs warning you of potential dangers ahead, such as steep grades and animal crossings. To ensure the safety of you and any passengers, pay extra attention to these signs and surroundings. And please, don’t pull over to enjoy the view next to a “falling rock” road sign.
- Watch out for blind curves. One of the most dangerous parts of driving through the mountains is the blind curves. On a clear, bright day, these curves can compromise driver visibility (for both you and oncoming drivers), so driving through them at night or during a storm can increase your risk of getting into an accident. Next time you come around a curve, let off the gas and slow down a little. You just never know when this seemingly-small safety tip will pay off.
- Don’t rely on GPS! GPS is great, but the signal may not be when you’re in the middle of a mountain range. Not only is it important to make sure you have enough gas when driving through the mountains, it’s also helpful to have the directions you need to get from point A to point B safely.
By planning ahead and plotting out your path on a map, you can see which roads on the way will be steep or narrow— something GPS systems may not tell you— without having to rely on technology.
All in all, the best advice we can give you is to proceed with caution when driving on mountain roads, no matter how comfortable you feel behind the wheel.
Tennessee native and car accident survivor, G. Turner Howard III, is committed to helping car accident victims in the greater Knoxville area get what they deserve. If you or someone you know has been in an accident, contact G3 Help Me for a free personal case evaluation.
Stay safe out there.