Part of being a safe driver is having the ability to adapt to different driving situations. Whether you’re more comfortable driving on urban or rural streets, you want to be aware of an unfamiliar environment’s potential driving conditions. Country roads, in particular, have a plethora of driving hazards that you won’t find on other types of roadways. With larger animal-crossing zones and darker night-driving conditions, the differences can be shocking to those who are unfamiliar with them. Learn what to look out for and how to respond in these situations with a few tips for driving safely on country roads.
What to Expect on Rural Roads
Rural roadways have a series of potential hazards that are unique to these areas. For instance, unlike cities and suburbs, it’s more common to have wildlife wander into the streets or have your vision obscured by the surrounding foliage. It’s important to keep these dangers in mind as you drive through rural areas so that you can be ready to respond if a situation arises. Some of what you can expect includes:
Since rural areas consist of more farmland, it’s always a possibility that you’ll run into livestock as you drive through these territories. While most cattle will remain fenced in on a property, farmers may designate certain areas for crossing livestock. In these situations, you might run across a heard making its way across the street. In most cases, there will be a sign alerting drivers of this area; however, you’ll still want to remain hypervigilant, as other animals such as raccoons and deer can cross into the street whenever they choose.
Long, weaving roads are a well-known characteristic of the country. However, just because they make for a scenic drive doesn’t mean that they’re any safer than city streets. In fact, taking a turn too fast can be more dangerous than heavy traffic. These turns can also have blind spots and obstructions such as trees and hills which can keep you from seeing what hazards lay just beyond the bend.
Along with livestock, you’ll also see the occasional industrial farm equipment. Due to planted crops growing close to the roads, it’s common to see farmers driving their equipment down the street to get to other parts of their field. Some of these machines will include tractors, ATVs, and even farming combines. These pieces of equipment are extremely large and can take up a full lane of the road, so be vigilant and prepare to slow down if you come up behind one.
Weather hazards are also different in rural areas. While cities still have to account for low visibility and slippery conditions, these dangers amplify out in the country. Damp mornings often lead to more mist and fog due to the increased vegetation. Plus, harsh rainfalls can result in flooding or mudslides. As such, it’s important to be on the lookout for areas of the road where these conditions have occurred. Avoid driving through flooded areas, if possible, to prevent damaging your brakes and getting trapped. You should also be careful on muddied roads as it can make for unexpectedly slippery conditions.
Low Night Visibility
Rural locations typically have fewer street lights than city or suburban areas. So once night falls, you’ll be relying on your headlights to see where you’re going. This means you may have to use your high beams more than usual to increase the visible distance from your vehicle. It’s important though that you prepare to turn them down again when you have oncoming traffic to keep from lowering the other driver’s visibility. For semi-truck drivers with International WorkStar or Mack CH LED headlights, this is especially pertinent—your lights could cause a heavy glare on the windshields of passing cars.
How to Respond to Hazards
There are various skills that drivers need to safely and effectively respond to hazardous situations on country roads. From monitoring your speed to being able to make the proper judgment calls, you need to know when to take charge. Some of the safest responses to dangers include:
This is one of the most important tips for driving safely on country roads, as it’s crucial that every driver always knows how fast they’re going. Since the winding paths through rural areas can weave or narrow with little notice, you need to be able to manage your speed. To round a curve in the safest manner, be sure that you’re braking before you reach the bend. Hitting the brakes as you go into the bend won’t slow your vehicle down enough and you can lose control if you’re not careful.
Navigation and Spatial Awareness
Knowing your vehicle well enough to judge distances is key to being able to adjust your speed and turning abilities while on the road. This is often why the speed limits on rural roads are actual limits and not guidelines. Exceeding the listed limit can put you in a dangerous situation if the road unexpectedly narrows and turns. Staying at or below the speed limit will ensure that you maintain the most control over the vehicle. Additionally, staying far enough back from another vehicle as you drive will give you more time to react.
Know When to Pull Over or Pass
Since rural roads are normally a singular lane in each direction, you should only utilize the option to pass up another driver when necessary. The rolling hills and obscuring tree line can block your view of any oncoming traffic, making it a risk to pass the driver ahead of you. If you need to do so, proceed with caution and check frequently for oncoming vehicles.
On the other hand, if you find that someone is tailgating you on a country road, you might want to consider pulling over briefly to let them pass you. Maintaining a manageable speed is very important on country roads. As such, it’s often best to let someone speed pass you rather than begin speeding yourself.
Observation and Quick Judgment
The quiet landscape and lack of traffic on rural roads can be misleading to a driver and cause them to zone out. But since animals and other obstacles can appear on the roads with little notice, it’s crucial that you remain aware at all times. Allowing yourself to lose focus for even a moment hinders your ability to quickly make decisions and respond.
When driving on rural roads as a semi-truck driver, it’s important to have the proper tools to notice and respond to problems quickly. At Unitruck, we provide you with just that—from model-specific headlights to specialized mirrors, we have it all. Our products can help you drive safer. Contact us today to learn more about our offerings.