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Driving a commercial motor vehicle is not limited to urban settings on well-maintained city streets or highly-manicured interstate highways. It sometimes involves driving on rural roads.

While driving on rural roads can be an enjoyable experience, it can also present unique hazards that can catch even the most experienced professional driver off guard. Rural roads can be unpaved, pot-holed or poorly maintained surfaces that are plagued by tire hazards and provide poor traction. Unusually steep hills and sharp curves are common on rural roads, as are changing road surfaces and soft shoulders. When driving on rural roads, you are also likely to encounter animals and farm equipment. Other hazards of driving on rural roads include lack of signs and guard rails, inadequate traffic control devices, limited lighting, and restricted visibility.

Here are some precautions that will help to ensure your safety while driving on rural roads:

  • Plan your route in advance. Be sure to select a route that will accommodate your vehicle’s size and weight; large vehicles are not able to navigate some rural roads. When using a global positioning system (GPS) or navigational app, make certain the device or app is intended for commercial motor vehicles. Avoid taking shortcuts onto rural roads you are unfamiliar with.

  • Perform a pre-trip inspection, as required by regulations, paying extra attention to your tires and tire pressure. Tire condition and pressure play a critical role in the road-holding ability of your vehicle. Stick to the recommended pressures at all times. Also, clean your windows and mirrors to maximize visibility and reduce glare.

  • Pay attention to the road as far ahead as possible. Doing so helps you keep control of the driving situation despite the type of road surface, weather conditions, degree of light or dark, traffic flow, or the incorrect judgment or actions of others.

  • Keep both hands on the steering wheel in the proper position. This will enhance your ability to react quickly to a hazardous situation.

  • Beware of reduced visibility. Trees, crop fields, hills, and curves can obstruct your view of oncoming vehicles, traffic entering from side roads or hidden driveways, pedestrians, and other hazards. Reduce your speed, increase your following distance and be prepared for potential dangers. Also, expect darker conditions when driving on rural roads at night. Switch on your headlamps as soon as you notice a reduction in visibility to increase your ability to see and your chances of being seen.

  • Slow down. Adjust your speed to roadway characteristics, lighting, weather or traffic conditions, and one that allows you to stop easily for any hazard. In rainy or wet conditions, be aware of slippery roads, wash aways and running or standing water.

  • Keep a good following distance. Stay at least six seconds behind other vehicles and increase this distance when conditions are less than perfect.

  • Wait for a safe and legal opportunity to pass. Be patient and signal your intentions well in advance. If you have doubts in regard to the distance and/or speed of oncoming vehicles, stay put.

  • Avoid quick changes in direction, such as a swerve to avoid an object or animal on the road. Sudden maneuvers can be particularly dangerous, especially on loose gravel or at an excessive speed.

  • Look out for pavement edge drop-offs. Rural roads can be narrower than city streets, and they often have dips, sharp curves or spots where the pavement cuts out. Avoid distractions and keep a close eye on your lane. If you drive off the pavement edge, do not slam on the brakes and jerk the wheel. Instead, ease off the accelerator and align the vehicle with the edge of the pavement. When there is a large gap in traffic, slowly turn the steering wheel to gradually guide the tires back onto the road.

  • Beware of road debris. Toppled trees, rocks, mud or spillage from agricultural vehicles may not be removed quickly from rural roads. Also, watch for overhanging branches jutting out from the roadside and mail boxes near the edge of the roadway.

  • Scan the roadway and roadsides for animals, both domestic and wild. Pay particular attention to animal crossing signs, and slow down to allow more time to react. Be extra vigilant during dusk and dawn when animals are most active and visibility is limited.

  • Watch for farm equipment. Keep an eye out for the fluorescent red and orange “slow moving vehicle” (SMV) placard on the rear of farm machinery. If you spot an SMV, reduce your speed and keep a safe distance. Pass carefully only when you have plenty of time and space to make the maneuver safely.

  • Wear your seatbelt. If you are involved in an accident, wearing your seat belt will help you maintain vehicle control and prevent you from being ejected.

Driving on rural roads is fraught with hazards, but knowing what to look for and applying these best practices can help you navigate them correctly and safely.

Article provided by Lancer Insurance co.


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