Every now and then we’re faced with a surprise; and not a good kind of surprise like a birthday party, or tickets to the big game. Surprises that can put us into a panic are never a good thing. One of the worst kinds of surprises is the potential head on crash. Would you know what to do if you’re faced with someone coming directly at you in your lane?
Head on collisions can be avoided, but the driver has to be prepared. What I mean by that is to be ready at all times and plan ahead. The first thing each driver should do is to constantly keep looking ahead and moving their eyes from side to side. Glancing well ahead toward the oncoming traffic is always a good idea. Never expect the traffic to stay in their own lane. Constant glances toward their wheels and the lane markings will give you advanced notification if they may be drifting across the line and into your lane. This early notification can give you the added time needed to move safely out of their way. (Judging wheel movement is explained more HERE)
Being able to avoid a head on collision starts well before you need to avoid the crash. Constantly planning where you can move to is a good habit to get into. On many highways and rural roads there is a shoulder, mostly gravel, which can be used. In many cases drivers panic and hit the brakes, but braking just delays the oncoming driver from hitting you. Knowing the shoulder is available is a good thing.
Once you realize you need to avoid this crash, look well ahead along the edge of the shoulder, maintain your speed, keep a firm grip on the steering wheel and move slightly onto the gravel shoulder. Leaving your left side tires on the pavement will allow you to keep traction while the other two wheels are on a loose surface with less traction. Move over far enough to allow for enough space for the oncoming driver to pass. Making this move early allows for the driver who made the mistake of entering your lane time to see what you’re doing to help the situation so they can pass safely. Moving over later may mean a head on collision on the shoulder. Once it’s safe, look well ahead into the middle of your lane and gently ease back onto the pavement.
Years ago I was teaching one of my students how to avoid a head on collision. We had just practiced the move a couple of times without any traffic near us when up ahead an oncoming driver pulled out from behind a large truck and was coming directly at us. With my hand on the steering wheel for guidance, my student moved the vehicle onto the shoulder to allow the oncoming vehicle to pass.
Everything worked out as it should. However, my student had thought I had “set it up” to have someone come directly at us in our lane. Think about it; we had just practiced the exercise when we had to do it for real. I laughed and explained it was just luck that we had to do it with a real vehicle. I’m still not sure they believed me. However, they now knew head on collisions can be avoided.