Rural Roadways

Characteristics of Rural Roadways

Rural driving is considered by some to be a calm, cool, and relaxing driving experience. People in the 1950s would often go for a drive “in the country” for entertainment. But rural driving presents a completely different set of hazards, from slow-moving farm equipment, wandering wildlife, horseback riding, and motorists speeding on often near-empty country roads. Roads generally do not have shoulders, or shoulders are narrow. Rural roads vary in quality as well. Unexpected dips, bumps, or erosion may not be repaired in a timely way. Also, some roads are made of gravel, or have many potholes. There are few signs, signals, or pavement markings in rural areas. Often, bridges are narrow, have open gratings, uncontrolled railroad crossings, and unregulated four-way stops.

Some key points to bear in mind when driving on rural roadways:

  • Avoid temptation to speed. Rural roads often contain hidden hazards.
  • Adjust speed when conditions are unsafe.
  • Position your vehicle to maintain 20-30 second visual lead.
  • Side roads and hidden roads directly intersect with the main road.
  • Maintain 3-second following distance.
  • Slow down, move right side of lane without edging onto the shoulder.

A rural motorist can reduce driving risk by:

  • Understanding that it is often more dangerous to drive on a two-lane highway.
  • Only passing one vehicle at a time.
  • If you see an oncoming vehicle, do not attempt to pass.
  • Following rules of the road.
  • Keeping safe. Remember that emergency vehicles often must travel from farther away to respond to you.

Finally, understand that certain special situations will impact your driving in rural areas:

  • Slow moving vehicles. Use caution.
  • People on horseback. Do not honk your horn!
  • Railroad crossings. Look left and right before crossing tracks. Be alert for multiple tracks.
  • Farm equipment, wagons, and trucks may drop objects on roadway.
  • Livestock and wildlife may be blocking the road ahead.
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