This post is a follow-up to yesterday’s post entitled, “Crash Statistics Show Rural Roads Twice as Dangerous.” In it, we outlined the particular dangers that make rural roads more dangerous than Interstate Highways or urban and suburban roads. Today, we will look at how to be a safer driver on rural roads.
As I pointed out in yesterday’s post, nearly 55 percent of all on-road fatalities occur on rural roads. In some counties, as much as 90 percent of all accidents occur on country roads. These numbers become startling when we remember that less than 20 percent of the U.S. population resides in small towns and rural areas. When vehicle crash statistics are compared for urban vs. rural areas, the data reveals that the fatality rate for rural crashes is nearly 2.4 times higher for every mile driven vs. on urban roads.
Once the particular dangers of rural roads are understood, drivers can take steps to become safer drivers on rural roads. As the autumn season begins on the East Coast, it will not be long before thousands of drivers will begin exploring country roads in search of fall produce, apple and pumpkin festivals, and the breathtaking views of fall foliage.
Top Tips on How to be a Safer Driver on Rural Roads
Even people who live in rural areas and small towns can make driving mistakes that turn deadly. If driving country roads is a bit outside your comfort zone, here are our top tips on how you can be a safer driver as you explore Virginia’s rural highways and byways.
- Never rely entirely on any GPS system. They are often not accurate for rural areas and roads.
- Carry an up-to-date paper map in your vehicle.
- Don’t travel unpaved or rough roads without double-checking your directions.
- Fill your fuel tank before leaving a more populated area. Fuel stations may be few and far between.
- Check your tires and your spare before leaving a more populated area. Be sure you have a jack and a working flashlight.
- Don’t count on cell phone service. Before you leave, tell someone when you expect to return.
- Remain aware and alert for farm vehicles, wild animals or livestock on the road. Keep in mind that many farm vehicles are not able to travel at typical traffic speeds. Also keep in mind that some of
these vehicles and trailers are wider than a single lane of many country roads.
- When entering a blind curve, slow down and stay to the right.
- When entering a dip or rise on a narrow road, watch for dust indicating oncoming vehicles or animals. Sound your horn to warn other vehicles of your presence.
- If you see any plumes of dust or smoke, slow down. Visibility may be decreased ahead, and there may be workers, animals, or vehicles in or beside the road.
- If a small animal runs into the road in front of you, do not try to swerve around it. Animals move very quickly and often in unexpected ways. You might confuse them by making changes in direction.
- If you encounter a group of animals crossing a road, wait until all of them have moved safely off the road. Trying to creep through a group of sheep or to drive around deer in the road could frighten the animals and cause them to run into your vehicle.
- Be prepared to slow down and pull over when encountering another vehicle on a very narrow road. Do not expect the driver of a logging truck, a RV, or any large vehicle to slow down or pull over for a car. In the event that you meet another vehicle on a very narrow road, the rule of thumb if neither vehicle can safely pull over is that the vehicle closest to the safe shoulder should back up until the safe spot is reached. If you meet a vehicle on a steep hill, the vehicle traveling downhill should back up to a safe spot.
- Gravel-covered roads can cause skidding if a driver applies the brakes too quickly. Slow down on these roads so you can stop safely if necessary.
- Because country roads and logging roads are not regulated for steep grades, it is wise when descending steep hills to shift the vehicle into a lower gear (automatic transmission, too). This will reduce the strain on your brakes.
- “Washboards” or corrugated surfaces are common on country roads, especially on hills or curves. They can be encountered on any dirt or gravel roads that are not maintained regularly. When you encounter one of these areas, slow down. These surfaces reduce traction and can cause difficulty steering, drifting sideways, or sudden skidding and loss of control. Many vehicles have ended up rolling or sliding into ditches in these circumstances. Steer gently, do not try to make sharp turns at speed, and use 4WD when going uphill on these surfaces.
- In general, slow down, and do not exceed posted speed limits. Allow extra space between your vehicle and the vehicle in front of you.
- Use extreme caution when pulling off a road that does not have shoulders.
With some extra care and attention, you can be a safer driver on rural roads. If you expect to be traveling country roads, review these tips before you leave home. We hope these tips will help you stay safe and enjoy your trip through the countryside.
We hope you never need us. But, if you are injured in an accident on a rural road through no fault of your own, call us. We have handled many accident cases that occurred on country roads. We are here for you if you need us.