Last week, I found myself driving the incredible Calrence Drive (R44 route) in the Western Cape. The stretch I was on, between Gordon's Bay and Betty's Bay in the Western Cape, offers a truly mesmerizing journey through a landscape that juxtaposes natural beauty with challenging driving conditions. This iconic route winds along the edge of picturesque cliffs, with towering mountains on one side and a sheer drop into the vast expanse of the ocean on the other. The dramatic scenery along the R44 is nothing short of breathtaking, as travellers are treated to panoramic vistas that capture the essence of the Western Cape's rugged coastal allure.


Yet, the allure of the R44 comes with its own unique set of challenges. While the road presents travellers with awe-inspiring vistas, it is also renowned for its strong crosswinds that sweep through the coastal terrain.  These crosswinds, originating from the vast ocean, can pose a formidable obstacle to safe and steady driving, particularly for those who are unaccustomed to such conditions. As luck would have it, there was a gale-force north easter blowing, to point that, my inbound flight to Cape Town an hour before had two missed-approaches and go-arounds as the pilots also grappled with the very same challenging winds.


Being born and bred in Gauteng, I was ill-prepared for the forceful crosswinds that awaited me on along the R44. The wind's unrelenting assault was so powerful that I battled maintain control of my  poor rental hatchback, a flimsy upright car that would probably sway if you sneezed, let alone in 60km/h + winds.  In one particularly unsettling moment, as I battled to maintain control, I couldn't help but wonder which fate would be preferable: a collision with the sheer cliff face or an encounter with the tempestuous sea below. I think it was at that point that I decided to seek refuge, parking at the first available lookout point and waiting for the winds to subside (they didn’t, but at least I tried).


Understanding the vulnerability of various vehicle types to crosswinds is crucial due to their design, size, and weight distribution. Generally, taller and narrower vehicles bear a higher susceptibility to crosswinds due to their elevated center of gravity and reduced aerodynamic stability. For instance:

  • Tall SUVs and Trucks: Vehicles with increased ride height, such as SUVs and trucks, are more exposed to wind due to their heightened profile, making them prone to being swayed by crosswinds.
  • Vans and Minivans: Vehicles with a boxy shape, like vans and minivans, tend to catch more wind, diminishing their stability in gusty conditions.
  • RVs and Trailers: Recreational vehicles (RVs) and trailers, with their extensive surface area, function like sails in crosswinds, rendering them highly sensitive to gusts.
  • Compact Cars: Smaller, lightweight cars can experience reduced stability in crosswinds due to their diminutive size and lighter weight, causing them to be easily influenced by strong winds.
  • High-Profile Vehicles: Vehicles with elevated rooflines and relatively narrow bodies, such as delivery vans and select crossovers, face greater susceptibility to crosswinds.


On the contrary, vehicles designed with lower profiles, wider bodies, and enhanced aerodynamics tend to resist crosswinds more effectively. This category encompasses sedans, hatchbacks, and sports cars. However, even vehicles with optimal aerodynamics can be impacted by formidable crosswinds. My personal experience involved manoeuvring a small, lightweight, upright hatchback, which seemed particularly prone to wind-induced movement.


Should you encounter comparable circumstances, here are recommended actions to take, bearing in mind that driving in severe crosswinds presents both challenges and potential dangers that demand attentive awareness and specific driving techniques to ensure safety.

  • Gradually Reduce Speed: Lower your speed to maintain control when confronted with sudden gusts of wind.
  • Steady Grip: Keep both hands on the steering wheel at all times to better direct your vehicle's movement, especially during strong wind gusts.
  • Firm Steering: Hold the steering wheel firmly while avoiding drastic movements. Small adjustments are preferable to sudden corrections.
  • Cautious Passing: Exercise caution when passing other vehicles, especially larger ones that can create wind tunnels affecting stability.
  • Lane Cantering: Position your vehicle toward the lane's center to allow room on either side for potential wind-induced lateral movement.
  • Extended Following Distance: Increase the space between your vehicle and the one ahead to allow for timely response to sudden wind-related shifts.
  • Controlled Manoeuvres: Execute controlled, gradual movements when steering, braking, or accelerating, as abrupt actions can disrupt stability in windy conditions.
  • Weather Monitoring: Consult weather reports before starting your journey, particularly if severe crosswinds are anticipated.
  • Vehicle Selection: opt for a vehicle with a low centre of gravity to enhance stability in windy conditions.
  • Safe Stopping: If crosswinds intensify to a point where safe driving becomes compromised, locate a secure spot to pull over and wait for conditions to improve.
  • Calm Composure: Maintaining a composed demeanour is vital, as panic can lead to hazardous decisions and reckless driving behaviours.


In addition, consider these relevant factors:

  • Wind Direction: Wind direction plays a significant role in how it affects your vehicle, with crosswinds being particularly challenging.
  • Wind Speed: Wind speed determines the extent of its impact, ranging from subtle lateral movement to severe control challenges.
  • Terrain and Surroundings: The environment you're driving through can either amplify or mitigate crosswind effects.
  • Braking and Acceleration: Gradual inputs are essential to maintaining stability during braking and acceleration in strong crosswinds.
  • Traffic and Other Drivers: Be cautious of the behaviour of other vehicles, especially larger ones that can influence air currents.
  • Adjustable Suspension: Familiarize yourself with your vehicle's adjustable suspension or stability control systems.
  • Driving Experience: Your experience as a driver affects how well you handle crosswinds.
  • Loading and Weight Distribution: Proper loading and weight distribution can impact your vehicle's stability.
  • Crosswind Warnings: Some roads, particularly those in the Western Cape, have warning signs that you are entering an area known for it’s cross-winds.  If you are not time constrained or if you travelling for pleasure, it is worth Googling the weather in advance and either deferring your travel times or seeking alternative routes.


In essence, adopting the necessary precautions when driving in crosswinds is paramount for ensuring both personal safety and the security of fellow road users. Understanding the vulnerabilities of certain vehicle types, adjusting speed, maintaining a firm grip on the steering wheel, and making controlled adjustments are vital strategies. By staying alert, practicing patience, and following the safety measures outlined above, drivers can confidently navigate through challenging crosswind conditions and arrive at their destination unscathed.