Deadly Drives in the Country


The National Safety Council reports that rural areas account for about 65 percent of traffic deaths. Further, 75 percent of all noncollision accidents (overturns, jackknifes) occur in rural areas. The allure of the countryside is obvious, but dangers are all around.

Rural Hazards

Rural roads are usually not as well maintained as urban roads and major highways. Always wear your seat belts and be especially alert for:

-Blind curves or intersections. Approach each curve expecting the worst. That means slowing down and staying on your side of the road.

-Excessive speed. Drive within the speed limit. It's based on the road's characteristics under ideal conditions, and it is established for your protection. Reduce speed in heavily wooded areas and at night.

-Soft shoulders. They will give way under the weight of your vehicle, and they could pull it down a slope or into a ditch.

-Narrow roads and one-lane bridges. Like it or not, you may have to yield to another driver. Don't be stubborn.

-Poorly marked intersections and railroad crossings. Approach them with caution.

-Woods and tall crops which obscure curves.

-The possibility for head-on collisions. To avoid them:

-Always stay to the right of the center line.

-If an oncoming vehicle veers into your lane for any reason, slow down right away, sound your horn and flash your headlights. Drive to the right to get out of the way. Driving into a ditch is less dangerous than driving into a vehicle.

-If the choice is between a head-on collision and hitting a fixed object, such as a tree or utility pole, it's safer to hit the fixed object, which has no momentum of its own.

Unpredictable Weather And Animals

Weather hazards are compounded on rural roads.

-Carry a survival kit and a cellular phone.

-In wet weather, try to stay in the path in the road that has been worn by traffic. The traction is better there.

-Heavy rains can cause flooding in low areas. A car can be swept away in only one foot of water. Don't try to cross rushing water.

-Wet gravel roads and fall leaves require extra stopping distance. Slow down in the rain.

Animals are a special danger in the country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, more than 100 people are killed and 8,000 are injured each year in crashes involving animals, particularly deer. You can't predict an animal's actions, but you can prepare your response.

-Use an animal warning device.

-If you encounter a small animal on the road, do not swerve to avoid hitting it. Stay on the roadway. The alternative could mean the loss of your life.

-Because of their size and increased numbers, deer present a special hazard:

-Dusk and dawn are their times of peak activity.

-If one deer crosses ahead of you, stay alert! They usually travel in groups.

-Be most alert in areas where foliage and trees extend to the road.

-If a collision with a deer is unavoidable, slow your speed to reduce the impact. Never swerve left!

Beware! Farm Machinery Crossing

The National Safety Council reports there are about 30,000 collisions each year between vehicles and farm machines. Farm machines are usually big and pon­derous. Mishaps can be avoided if drivers show restraint and patience.

-Slow down when you approach farm implements. Be prepared to stop if necessary.

-Stay calm. Your chance to pass will come eventually. Don't risk your life to save a minute or two.

-Be wary. These implements need more room to maneuver than you do. Tractors will veer to their right before they make left turns. Don't mistake this to mean the tractor is moving aside to let you pass.