Driving on Rural Roads
Rural Driving Safety Tips

Driving on Rural Roads Safety Tips & Tactics: Minimizing Driving Risks

Updated Dec. 11, 2020

Staying safe on rural roads depends on remaining alert, giving yourself the best possible view of the road ahead and making sure you have enough time to stop or maneuver to avoid a collision. The tips outlined here will keep you on track! Let’s start with the most important tactic for safe rural driving: keeping your speed to a minimum.

Reducing speed

You will have seen the words “reduce your speed” time and time again while reading through the rural driving section of this course. It truly is the best preventative measure you can take to avoid accidents and injury when driving in a rural environment (or any environment, for that matter). The slower you are traveling, the more time and space you will have to react and avoid potential dangers.

Motorists should drive comfortably within the legal speed limit, reducing their speed further if their view of the road ahead is impeded. If a hill, curved stretch of road, large vehicle or some other natural obstacle obscures your line of sight, you must slow down immediately. Reduce your speed in a smooth and controlled manner when:

  1. 1

    You cannot see oncoming traffic because of the landscape, an obstacle or poor weather conditions.

  2. 2

    Driving at night.
    Visibility will be poor and nocturnal wildlife may enter the roadway.

  3. 3

    Approaching a slow-moving vehicle ahead of you or traveling toward you from the opposite direction.

  4. 4

    Approaching a line of vehicles in the opposing traffic lane.

While it is important to keep speed to a minimum, you must not travel so far below the speed limit that you present a hazard to other motorists. A vehicle traveling at or just below the speed limit may have to brake suddenly when approaching you from the rear if you are moving too slowly.

Using headlights

Activating your headlights can improve visibility – even during daylight hours. Other road users will be able to see you sooner and spotting hazards will be easier. In some states, using your headlights on certain stretches of rural highway is compulsory. Check your state’s driving handbook for details and look out for signs indicating that headlights must be active. Even if it is not a legal requirement, keeping your headlights on during the day on treacherous rural roads is advisable.

Avoiding fatigued driving

Driving on rural roads when you are sleepy or generally fatigued is a very bad idea. Motorists are extremely susceptible to being inattentive on rural highways anyway - without factoring tiredness into the mix! Collisions as a result of driver fatigue are substantially more likely to occur on rural roads, as motorists have fewer alternative transport options and must often travel long distances.

Do not take any chances if you feel yourself tiring on a rural road. Find the next safe place to pull over and consider taking a short nap before proceeding on your journey. If stopping is not possible, wind the window down or adjust the air-con to help keep yourself alert and proceed with caution. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration estimates that roughly 41,000 crashes involved fatigued drivers, in 2015 alone.

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Curves and Hills

When driving through a stretch of road that is not flat, or straight, a motorist must contend with additional forces acting on their vehicle. Adjustments in speed and lane position must be made to counteract these forces and maintain control. Furthermore, line of sight may be impeded by the mid-point of a curve or the crest of a hill.

Driving on Curves
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Driving Through Curves

You do not need to be a rocket scientist to navigate curves in the road safely, though you will need to understand the forces acting on your vehicle and learn how to maintain control. When driving through any curve in the road, the circular pathway of your vehicle will create a centrifugal force which pulls it toward the outside edge of the curve. Always be on the lookout for curves in the road ahead of you and make any necessary speed and position changes as soon as possible.

Driving on Hills
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Driving on Hills

Driving on hills presents many of the same challenges as driving on a curved road. Your ability to see opposing traffic may be impeded by the crest of the hill and additional forces will be acting on your vehicle. Whereas centripetal and centrifugal forces will affect your car while driving through a curve, hill driving means you must contend with gravity. The steeper the hill, the greater this effect will be.

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Driving Through Construction Zones

While driving in the city, you may encounter construction zones or detours marked out with warning signs and signaling devices. These are in place to guide road users and pedestrians safely around the work zone. Always reduce your speed when approaching a construction or maintenance area on the road, as there may be workers moving around on foot.

Residential Driving 1 of 3

Driving in Residential Neighborhoods

Motorists are generally exposed to far less danger when driving in residential neighborhoods, than they are when driving in a city or on a major highway. Nevertheless, the risk of being involved in an accident or collision in a residential neighborhood is high – particularly when traveling close to home.

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Special Use Lanes

One of the first things you must learn when driving in residential, suburban and urban neighborhoods is that not all traffic lanes are designed to be used in the same way. To increase public safety and minimize congestion, “special use” lanes and road features, such as one-way streets, center left turn lanes, reversible lanes and roundabouts are present in some areas.

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Parking Risks

Searching for a parking spot amid crowded road conditions can lead drivers to behave less courteously and safely than they would usually. It is easy to overlook road rules and become frustrated with other drivers, when competing with many other motorists for just a handful of parking spaces.

Driving on Rural Roads 1 of 3

Driving on Rural Roads

Driving on rural roadways can be every bit as dangerous as driving on high-speed freeways or crowded city roads. The dangers themselves are fewer on rural roads, though the overall risk is greater. Limited visibility, lack of road signs, careless driving and changeable roadways conditions make rural traffic fatalities tragically common.

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Dangers on Rural Roads

Despite the slow pace of life, low traffic volume and quiet countryside which typify most rural communities in America, drivers are more likely to be involved in a fatal accident on a rural road than they are anywhere else. In 2016, the NHTSA recorded 37,461 traffic deaths overall. Of these fatalities, 18,590 (50 percent) occurred in rural areas.