Road Safety 101: Driving on Rural Roads
Learn about the risks of driving on rural roads, and what you can do to stay safe in the countryside.
This series will take a comprehensive look at Canada’s different neighbourhood roads: rural, suburban, and urban. We highlight the differences between routes, and give you tips on how to navigate all types of streets. This article examines rural roads, the risks on them, and how to be safe behind the wheel.
What's the deal with rural roads?
When we look at traffic safety data, the research tells us that most collisions happen on urban routes, but the most deadly collisions are most likely to happen on rural roads. Transport Canada reports that two-thirds of all “deadly [collisions] happen on rural roads, in the country, where speed limits are faster and the roads aren't as well-lit as they are inside the city.” The most common type of collisions on rural roads are single-vehicle, intersection and head-on.
Rural roads generally have less congestion than their urban or suburban counterparts, but there are still ample risks to drivers as well as their passengers. If you are travelling on a rural route, there is a strong chance it is at a higher speed, and for longer distances. This increases the likelihood of fatigue, inattention, and distraction – all contributing factors for collisions.
If there is a collision in a rural area, victims are farther from urgent care – a reality that can make a big difference in terms of injury severity.
Rural roads may pose more hazards, but many of the risks can be mitigated with a few simple proactive actions. Take a look at what you can do to stay safe when cruising down the country road.
Because you may be travelling longer and faster on rural routes, it is important to stay attentive to changing weather conditions. This can include black ice, high winds, or precipitation that comes on suddenly. The dynamics of a road may change as well – going from tree-lined to open roadways, bringing forcible winds. Anticipate the changes before they happen, and stay alert.
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The open highway may beg for acceleration, especially when it’s empty. However, roads are designed for the posted speeds, based on elements that include curves, stopping distance, and the overall geometry of the roadway, therefore compounding the importance of staying within the limit. Maintaining the posted limit will keep you stable (especially through curves), provide appropriate reaction time, and potentially decrease the severity of any collision that may happen.
Given their location, rural routes experience traffic of a different kind. Even if you haven’t spotted a sign indicating the presence of wildlife, don’t assume they aren’t around. Driving the speed, or even reducing it, allows for shorter reaction time. Stay alert, and scan ditches along the shoulder of both sides of the road. If you are on a collision course with an animal, it may be better to swerve or brake, depending on the size of the animal, and the traffic around you. Be prepared – especially around dusk and seasonal changes, and be ready to make snap decisions if you happen to encounter any four-legged commuters.
Maintain your vehicle
With the longer commutes as well as longer distances from emergency support, peace of mind is important on rural routes. Vehicle maintenance, which includes topping up fluids, checking lights, and having a full tank of gas for long hauls can make a huge difference for your trip. Should things take a turn, it is important to be prepared with an emergency kit – the contents of which can help to keep you warm, hydrated, and visible until help arrives.
Canada is a country made up of many rural roads – no matter if you drive them daily, or only occasionally, it is key to understand how to get to your final destination safe and sound!