5 Tips for you to be a safer and faster driver in large groups
The Trans Arunachal Drive 2021 is a drive I would cherish all my life. Not only did I get to explore the beautiful state of Arunachal Pradesh in the Mahindra Thar with a bunch of journalists and rallying legends Hari Singh and Sudev Barar, but I also picked up a number of tips and tricks that helped me be a safer driver behind the wheel.. As it was my first drive in a convoy, I was unaware of the road manners that are a must to be followed in a convoy or large groups. I was lucky enough to have experienced drivers by my side to show me the ropes, but not everyone is so lucky. So here are a few tips and tricks that you can use if you are heading out a road trip with a large convoy of cars.
Pick a strong lead driver
First on the list is to get a lead driver. Always keep an experienced driver in the lead car. The lead not only guides the rest of the cars about the oncoming obstacles but also gives directions and keeps an eye out for suitable stops for breaks. The cars following the lead should always keep track of the lead’s commands, as it not only keeps them safe but also saves time as it minimises the chances of people getting lost. The messages should ideally be transmitted via radio or using mobile phones put on handsfree. A radio is preferable as in many places, network can be an issue. And if the phone’s always on, how will you listen to any music?
Ensure a responsible drive is in the Sweep Car
A sweep car is the last car in the group or convoy. The key responsibility of this car is to ensure the group is kept tight and intact and ensure no car lags behind. The sweep car should always be in constant touch with the lead car, to ensure the group or convoy is intact and everyone is crossing the same landmarks as the lead and the others in the group. The Sweep should ideally halt if any car in the convoy decides to do so alone, and remain with said car till it starts moving again. The sweep car should monitor fast traffic approaching from behind and alert the group to allow them to pass. They should be experienced in dealing with emergencies, as they are likely the first people who will have to deal with one.
Maintain a safe distance and path
With the lead and sweep, playing a crucial part, it is necessary for the other drivers to adhere to certain rules. The most important being driving to the left of the road. Even if the lead is sending you constant information about approaching traffic and obstacles, driving on the left side is always safe, as it prevents mishaps, in case if the lead misses out something or has lost sight of something approaching from the middle of the road. Also, one should try to maintain a distance of at least two cars between the cars, whether on smooth tarmac or on wet roads. Distance of two cars on wet roads is something that worked for me on a recent drive to Arunachal Pradesh, with the five time INRC Hari Singh in the lead guiding us through slush and muddy paths. The interesting part is this keeps you safe and also prevents collision in case of hard braking.
Learn a common set of signals
One cannot predict when the radio or mobile signal can disappear,, therefore a proper knowledge of conveying messages using headlamps and blinkers is a must. While driving if you want to alert a driver who is ahead of you, you flash the lights once or twice. In case, if other drivers are giving you hand signals or telling you to overtake, you give out a single continuous flash, indicating you got their signal. And, if there is some driver in the group who is doing something wrong or dangerous for others, you give out flashes for longer durations and if the driver is repeatedly doing something wrong for a maximum period of time, you give out longer flash signals for multiple times, alerting them, as they can be dangerous for others as well. Same methods can be used with horns as well, but avoid honking and do your bit to reduce noise pollution and annoying fellow drivers as well. Also, while talking about signals, the most common mistake we always tend to make is using hazard lights while slowing down. Hazard lights can be used in case of breakdown or zero visibility but while in groups, it results in poor visibility for the drivers at the tail end of the convoy due to the harsh and continuous flashes. I was also unaware of this tip until rallying legend Sudev Barar shared this important bit with me.
Pick breaks and halts wisely
Now driving with all these measures in place can keep you safe for the most part, but driving continuously cannot. Which is why you need small breaks. Breaks while travelling in groups should be taken altogether, to avoid delays. Taking breaks is important but you need to be cautious when it is on the side of the roads. Always, when stopping for a break, try to pull over on the left with all the cars parked behind one another, to let the traffic behind pass by. Instead of using hazards, use parking lights to signal the halt unless you are very close to the road. Also, when you decide to stop, inform your reason for stopping to either the lead or sweep, and as soon as you get going, retain your position in the group.
These rules will not only keep you safe on the drive, but also save time and make the drive more enjoyable for everyone involved. So should you be planning a drive with friends, or attending a curated drive, you are now armed with the knowledge to make you safer!