A head-on collision is the worst crash most of us can think of. Thankfully, they are relatively rare. Still, you should be prepared for one. A young mother was on an Arizona highway, with her sister and her child. She had great visibility. In front of her was smooth, dry pavement, wide shoulders and straight road. A snake slithered out. Rather than hit the snake, she went left of center, right into the grill of a semi. All three were killed instantly in a collision that equaled running into a solid wall at over 120 miles per hour. When emergency crews arrived, the truck driver was wandering around, telling anyone who'd listen that he was so close when she swerved, he hadn't had time to turn his wheel and take his rig into the ditch to save them. He couldn't understand why she would hit a truck head on, instead of a snake.
I can tell you why. First, she wasn't paying attention. Second, she reacted without thinking, in a fraction of a second, and she made the WRONG decision. What would you do if you were suddenly faced with a highway head-on? You've got only a few seconds to react, the closing speed is 200 feet per second and maybe more. At this speed you cover each MILE of pavement in 26 seconds. If you think about it ahead of time and often, so it becomes second-nature to you, you may make the right move if you ever face a head-on.
Here's how to avoid head-ons. Anticipate those places and situations where a head-on collision is possible. They can happen on curvy roads, but these typically aren't the full-on, radiator to radiator crashes you normally think of when "head-on" is mentioned. There are head-ons that occur on straight stretches, because someone is asleep or distracted. Pay attention and look far down the road. If you aren't distracted, you're likely to see the vehicle coming long before he's a problem. Watch for erratic behavior. Use your headlights in daylight -- it makes the other driver THINK about you -- Why does he have his lights on? On curvy roads especially, DON'T HUG THE CENTERLINE. Drive on the right side of your lane, and you'll miss the guy that's a little bit wide coming around a blind curve at you.
Despite your best efforts, you could someday face a head-on. First, slow down as quickly as you can without losing control; this will reduce the forces if there is an impact. If the other driver keeps coming in your lane, go off the road to the RIGHT, NOT LEFT. If he recovers at the last second, where do you think he'll go? If you hit him on his side, in the absence of witnesses who can state the truth, it's your fault (if you survive). When going off-road to the right, if you cannot avoid hitting something solid, don't hit it square, but off center, on a side if possible, with a glancing blow. You are better off having a one-car crash off the right side of the road, than you'd be in a head-on crash at highway speed. But if you drive right, off the road, you are going to do some damage. For this reason (it's a sure crash), some folks hang on, in the face of an oncoming head-on, until it is too late. Think about it NOW. Slow quickly, drive right, off the road if necessary, live to see tomorrow (and to read my next rule)!