Web Traffic School
SECTION 4.6 Review: Safety on the Open Road

The Open Road: Meeting or Approaching Other Vehicles

Lines of Cars

When you come upon a line of cars coming toward you, be prepared for an oncoming driver to break from the pack and try to pass someone in front of them, creating a dangerous situation for you. Look in advance for a way out, slow down, and be ready to use the shoulder of the road.


As you crest a hill your visibility is very limited. Never pass as you approach a hilltop: stay to the right and drive slowly.

At Night

Limited visibility at night makes driving more dangerous and demands different driving techniques.

As you approach a car from the rear or an oncoming car, always switch your headlights to low beam. If an oncoming driver has their high beams on, to avoid being blinded by the glare of their lights, take the following actions:

  • If the car is far enough away, flick your high beams on briefly to remind the oncoming driver to dim his or her lights.
  • If the oncoming driver continues to use high beams, slow down and glance at the right edge of the road to guide your lane position.
  • Glance ahead frequently to check the position of the oncoming traffic, without looking directly at the bright headlights.

The Open Road: Road Conditions

Gravel roads, potholes, or loose gravel on the road can all increase stopping distance, reduce traction, and cause drivers to lose control of their vehicles. You should slow down and drive carefully or try to drive around the rough surface. Hold the steering wheel firmly.

If you need to drive through a pothole, brake before the pothole and release the brake pedal before you actually enter the pothole. You will have better control of the car as it emerges from the hole.

In some areas, particularly construction areas, mud or dirt may build up on the surface of the road from trucks or other heavy equipment. In the rain this surface will become extremely slick. All you can do is reduce your speed and be very careful.

Road Width

Open roadways can be of very different widths. Scan ahead for changes in the width of the road. If the road narrows, or there is a narrow bridge ahead, slow down and position your car to meet oncoming vehicles before or after the narrow point.

Field of View and Line of Sight

If your field of view is blocked, or your line of sight is restricted, adjust your speed in order to have more time to react in case of an emergency or dangerous situation.

The Open Road: Driving in the Fog

Driving in the fog or through smoke can be very hazardous due to radically reduced visibility:

  • Use your low beams. High beams will cause a blinding glare.
  • If you drive frequently in fog, have special low mounted fog lights installed and use them.
  • Use your defrosters, defoggers, and windshield wipers to keep your windshield clear of any condensation.

The Open Road: Speed and Rearview Mirror

Look in your rearview mirror frequently and watch for faster moving vehicles who may try and overtake you.

The Open Road: General tips

In low visibility conditions:

  • Avoid crossing roadways. Other motorists will have difficulty seeing you and may not be able to guarantee your safety.
  • It will be impossible to see far enough to be sure that you can safely pass a line of cars. You shouldn’t try.

The Open Road: Driving on Slippery Surfaces

The odds of your having a collision are greater in wet weather. A hard rain can limit visibility so much that you can’t see the edges of the road, traffic signs or other cars.

  • Maximize your visibility. Keep your low beam headlights on at all times, especially on dark or overcast days, and use low beams and fog lights in the fog.
  • When you drive on wet streets, mud and dirt splash on your headlights, reducing their effectiveness up to 90 percent. Stop periodically during a long trip to clean your headlights.
  • Keep your windshield and windows clean. During the rain use your windshield washers to remove the film of dirt from the windshield and use your defrosters to keep your front and rear windshields clean.

Staying on the Roadway

Under adverse conditions:

  • Stay on the paved portion of the roadway. It will maximize your room for maneuvering and provide the greatest traction for your tires.
  • Drive in the tracks of the car ahead of you. They will have less water to reduce the traction of your wheels and help you keep better control of your vehicle.
  • Allow more of a space cushion from the vehicle in front of you: keep a minimum of four seconds or more between you anytime your traction is reduced, in addition to reducing your speed.
  • Avoid abrupt movements of the steering wheel. Steer smoothly, brake and accelerate gently, and avoid sudden movements.

Going through Deep Water

If you are forced to drive through deep water for some reason:

  • Shift into a lower gear, slow down, hold the steering wheel firmly and coast through the water. If the water is deep, you should accelerate through it to maintain your momentum.
  • When you are through the water, dry your brakes by applying light pressure on the brake pedal for a few seconds.
  • Do not overload the rear of the car, or you will have lessened the traction of the front wheels and reduced your traction and directional control, which is especially important for front-wheel drive cars.

Driving in Snow and Ice

Snow and ice make roads very dangerous. You have to prepare yourself and your vehicle. Your should have tires, tires chains, cooling fluid, engine oil, windshield wiper blades, and washer fluid, all designed for winter.

  • Maximize your visibility. Keep your low beam headlights on at all times, especially on dark or overcast days, and use low beams and fog lights if it is foggy.

Winter Speeds

In wintry conditions:

  • Keep your speed below the speed you would use on a dry road. Your traction will be reduced even more than on a wet road. Drive very slowly and reduce your speed even more if your wheels begin to skid.
  • Maintain a steady speed and avoid braking.
  • Reduce speed on curves and shady areas that may conceal ice patches. Slow down and avoid braking, accelerating, or steering while driving on ice.
  • Maintain a larger space cushion. Increase your following distance to four to six seconds.

General Tips to Avoid Winter Skids

To avoid skidding in wintry conditions:

  • Watch out for icy patches on the pavement.
  • Avoid any sudden maneuvers including rapid acceleration, hard braking, downshifting, or sudden movements of the steering wheel.
  • Avoid the edge of the road or the shoulder.
  • Do not downshift gears at too fast a speed, which can cause skids or seriously damage the transmission of your car.
  • Use chains when required by either road service workers or posted signs.
  • If not required by signs, use chains whenever you think your traction is compromised.

How to Stop Skidding

  • Keep the clutch engaged. Don’t drive with your clutch disengaged, or in neutral. You will lose traction. When you change gears, work with the clutch fast and gently.
  • Avoid lifting your foot from the accelerator suddenly -- release the brake pedal carefully and avoid abrupt moves and acceleration.

Starting When Traction is Poor

To start when traction is poor, simply straighten your front wheels and apply gentle pressure on the accelerator. If you still need additional traction, you can start in a higher gear where your wheels are less likely to spin.

Accelerate gradually. When the car starts moving, gradually increase your speed and steer straight ahead. Avoid spinning your wheels. Drive forward as far as possible without executing any maneuvers.

Passing: Proper Passing Technique

Swift decision making and good judgment are essential for safe passing. Before you make a decision to pass another car on a two-way road, you must consider the following:

  • Road conditions
  • Weather conditions
  • Traffic around you
  • The overall safety of the maneuver

Passing safely requires the cooperation of both drivers, the one passing and the one being passed. You should only consider passing if you are driving at least 10 mph faster than the car that you would like to pass, and you can do so safely and legally.

Passing: When Passing is Allowed

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You may legally pass on a divided roadway, one-way road or freeway by simply changing the lane. Do not drive over the speed limit and do not use the shoulder of the road to make your maneuver.

On a two-way road, passing is authorized only if you have a broken yellow line marking your lane on your side of the road, and it is safe to pass.

Passing: When passing is prohibited

Passing is prohibited on two-lane roadways:

  • When a "No Passing" sign is posted
  • A solid line is painted on the pavement in the middle of the road
  • The lane marker on your side of the road is a solid double yellow line
  • When you are approaching a hill, slope, or curve
  • When you are within 100 feet of a bridge, viaduct, tunnel, an intersection, or a railroad crossing

Passing is prohibited on freeways, divided highways, and one-way roads when:

  • A "No Passing" sign is posted.
  • A solid line is painted on the pavement in the middle of the road.
  • A yellow pennant posted on the left side of the roadway, indicating a No Passing Zone.

Be especially careful and use your best judgment when passing close to an intersection, or near a railroad crossing, a bridge, or an abutment.

Passing: Dangerous Passing Situations

As you consider whether or not to pass another car on a two-way roadway, beware of dangerous situations, such as:

  • If there is a long line of cars ahead of you, it is difficult to predict the intentions of the other drivers. They may slow down, stop, or turn into your path, or act in such a way that may limit your options.
  • Do not start passing if an oncoming vehicle is close by.
  • If the car ahead of you is going at or near the speed limit, and passing would force you to violate the speed limit, you should not pass
  • Do not start passing if you see a sign marking a "No Passing" zone approaching. You will most likely not have enough room to pass within the legal area allowed.

Passing: Identify Passing Situations

In order to safely complete your passing maneuver, you will need at least several seconds to pass the other vehicle, as well as plenty of room to safely complete the maneuver. There should be at least twice the distance you will actually need to pass between you and any oncoming cars.

  • Before you begin, identify an "end of pass" gap in the traffic in your lane that you will be able to pull back into after you pass
  • .
  • Check for sufficient road traction. Avoid passing on a slippery road, unless you can pass at low speed and there is no oncoming traffic.

Before you start your pass, establish a safe response to hazards or unexpected situations, such as:

  • The car you are trying to pass speeds up.
  • An oncoming car is going too fast and you don’t have enough room to pass.
  • If you run out of space to pull back into your lane – could you use the shoulder of the road?

Passing: Steps for Successful Passing

Use this checklist to plan and execute a safe passing maneuver:

  1. Scan for hazards, including oncoming vehicles, vehicles approaching from the rear, or vehicles merging from the right.
  2. Signal your intent to move left by turning on your left turn signal.
  3. Check your blind spots: check your mirrors and look over your left shoulder.
  4. Move to the left.
  5. Honk or flash your high beams to warn drivers ahead.
  6. Accelerate to the speed 10 miles faster than the car you need to pass.
  7. Check again the situation in front and behind of your car.
  8. Maintain passing speed until you have passed the vehicle.
  9. Show your right turn signal.
  10. Check your right blind spot in the mirror and over your shoulder.
  11. Move back into the right lane without reducing speed.
  12. Create space for the vehicle you passed.
  13. Adjust your speed to the speed of the lane you moved into.

When you have made a decision to pass, don’t hesitate and don’t change your mind in the middle of the maneuver. Be patient, but after you have made the decision, think and act quickly.

Passing: Passing Safely on the Right

Passing to the right of another vehicle is permitted under the following conditions:

  • When the vehicle in front of you is making or about to make a left turn.
  • When two lanes of traffic are moving in the same direction in a business or residential district or on any highway.
  • On a one-way street.

Use the same checklist for passing on the right as you would for passing on the left, reversing the directions right to left. Before you begin, be sure that the other driver is not planning to change lanes to the right and your maneuver is both safe and legal.

Accidents: Aid to the Injured

  • If anyone is hurt, call the police or California Highway Patrol (CHP).
  • Help anyone who is not already walking and talking.
  • Give aid to anyone injured to the best of your knowledge and ability.
  • If an accident victim appears to be unconscious and not breathing, and you are certified to give artificial respiration, begin artificial respiration at once.

Do not move an injured person unless they are in a burning vehicle or in other imminent danger. Moving a victim will often make their injuries worse.

Accidents: Preventing Further Damage

  • If any of the vehicles involved in an accident are not disabled, make sure to move them out of the stream of traffic and turn off their ignition.
  • Never smoke near the scene of an accident.
  • Warn oncoming vehicles of the accident scene using hazard lights and flares in the roadway.

Accidents: Additional Steps

In order to be prepared for any future legal issues, you should always:

  • Obtain the names and addresses of everyone present at an accident, including both drivers and witnesses.
  • Give accurate facts to the police when they arrive.
  • Seek medical attention promptly for any injuries sustained during an accident.
  • Be sure to file the necessary forms with the DMV and the police.


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