13- Driving on Rural Roads
Goal: Teach your teen to drive safely and with confidence on two-lane rural roads.
Location: A two-lane rural road.
Lesson one – gravel roads
Gravel roads present their own special road safety challenge; the issue is traction. Driving on loose gravel is harder than driving on pavement because your tires don’t have the traction needed to give you stable control. Slow down, avoid sudden turning, accelerate and brake slowly, and increase your following distance to six seconds. Be particularly aware of gravel “windrows,” piles of gravel near the road edge, used for highway maintenance.
Lesson two – driving hazards
Large/slow vehicles: Slower trucks, farm vehicles, and road maintenance equipment are likely to make wide turns at unmarked entrances. Use caution and make sure the driver can see your vehicle before passing.
Sharp drop-offs and gravel shoulders: One of the most common driving hazards is running off the road. The urge to overcorrect is strong and often results in a serious crash. If you run off the road, follow these steps to ease your vehicle back onto the road:
- Do not turn the wheel; continue driving straight.
- Take your foot off the accelerator.
- Find a safe place to reenter the road.
- Activate your turn signal and reenter the road when it is clear.
- In general, try to not apply brakes until regaining control of the vehicle.
Restricted visibility: Trees, cornfields, buildings, and hills can block a driver’s view of oncoming traffic, or traffic entering from the side. Identify blind spots to better anticipate and be prepared for potential dangers.
Uncontrolled/open intersections: These are intersections not controlled by signs, signals, or pavement markings. Use caution, slow down, and be prepared to stop for oncoming traffic. You must yield the right of way if: a vehicle is already in the intersection; you enter or cross a state highway from a secondary road; you enter a paved road from an unpaved road; or, if you plan to make a left turn and a vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction.
Animals: If unable to stop for an animal crossing the road, do NOT swerve — swerving makes it hard to keep control. The most serious crashes happen when drivers swerve into oncoming traffic or roll into a ditch.
If you see an animal, slow down and be prepared to stop. Always be on the lookout, especially at sunrise and sunset. October and November are peak months for deer crashes. Deer travel in groups; if you see one, look for more.
Hills and curves: These are often steeper and sharper on rural roads than on highways. Before reaching the crest of a hill, or when entering a curve, slow down, move to the right side, and watch for traffic.
Railroad crossings: Always slow down, look both ways, listen, and be prepared to stop. On rural roads, many railroad crossings are marked only with a round yellow ‘Railroad Crossing Ahead’ warning sign and a white X-shaped railroad crossing. There may not be flashing lights, warning bells, crossing gates, or pavement markings. It is difficult to judge the speed of a train, so before you cross, make sure you don’t see or hear a train either direction.