Car Advice

Five on Friday: country road driving tips

Driving on rural roads is a whole lot different to driving around town. Here are five country road driving tips.

WE COULD WRITE A BOOK on the differences between country and urban driving, but here’s five tips for a Friday:

  1. Expect the unexpected – any road is unpredictable, but you never know what’s around the next bend in the country. Observation is key; looking ahead as far as possible. Fencelines, powerpoles, treelines and more give clues where the road is going, as do glimpses of the road ahead as you crest hills. Oh, and roadsigns are handy too! On dirt roads dust clouds will be visible..but only if there’s oncoming traffic. When following a road cut into a hillside the turns away from the hill are generally tighter than those turning into it. Back off over crests, they’re as bad as blind corners.
  2. Changing traction conditions – there could be gravel on the road, mud from farm machinery, even dust and grass. Country road speeds tend to be higher, so changes in traction are more of a problem. Broken bitumen offers less traction than well-formed, and country roads are often not well repaired, or repaired consistently. Be alert for changing road colours and sources of traction changes. Country roads may be up or down steep hills; on long descents use low gears for control and to avoid overheating the brakes.
  3. Narrow roads, maybe unmarked – roads can physically narrow, or not have marking lines, or maybe just the bitumen narrows leaving dirt either side. You will need to slow down. If you pass another car on such a road slow down first, then move to have two wheels on dirt, two on bitumen. A lack of marking lines means leave extra room, not that you own the entire road! Also, not every hazard will be marked.
  4. Animals – particuarly around dawn and dusk look for animals. Hitting a rabbit isn’t generally a problem (except for the rabbit), but hitting a kangaroo is not great unless you’ve got a bullbar. Remember, never swerve for an animal.
  5. Prepare – if you break down, get a puncture or have some other sort of problem it can be a very long walk. Always carry fresh water, a coat, ensure your car has plenty of fuel, know where you are on a map, and preferably use a car with a full-sized spare.

Country driving may be a chore at times, but not for nothing do people go for Sunday drives and that tends not to be in the city. Enjoy the scenery and the openess, but stay safe!

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12 Comments

  1. Kerry Charles
    April 30, 2016 at 6:53 pm — Reply

    First tip #1 there is a glaring error. There haven’t been any telegraph poles for probably close to 100 years. Why do people keep using this obsolete term. They are all POWER POLES.

    • JackSplat
      May 20, 2016 at 10:07 pm — Reply

      Really Kerry, …hardly worth carrying on about. Look up ‘pedantic’, and then have a good look at yourself.

      • May 20, 2016 at 10:16 pm — Reply

        I fixed it anyway. Paul’s lessons for 21st century English are not yet complete, sorry

  2. Ern
    May 1, 2016 at 3:15 pm — Reply

    I would add that if you are doing a long run on dirt, dropping tyre pressure by around 20% makes a huge improvement to traction. But keep the speed to 80 or less.

    • JackSplat
      May 20, 2016 at 10:09 pm — Reply

      Thanks, good tip. Any further tips on how to re-inflate them after the dirt turns back into bitumen?

  3. Wealth effect
    December 2, 2016 at 8:44 pm — Reply

    Remember if your turning into a new road that any cars coming toward you will be on you far faster than they would be at 60kpm allow 300 t0 400 meters. Anyone living in the country will have experienced to city slicker cutting them short as if you were doing 60ks, if in doubt wait for the next gap! Oh and remember metallic colored cars like silver or tungsten can be harder to see on a bitumen road in the distance, particularly on a cloudy day.

    • JohnGC
      December 3, 2016 at 6:13 am — Reply

      Good point. Also when i go out to west NSW i can get surprised when overtaking at how quickly the oncoming vehicle closes the gap when going at speed.

  4. Steve Bekkers
    December 2, 2016 at 9:42 pm — Reply

    with the Roos we have around here I wouldn’t put much faith in the bull bar…

  5. Ziggy
    December 3, 2016 at 7:17 am — Reply

    I’m told that as speed increases the distance to brake to a stop increases exponentially. So where there’s gravel or loose dirt that effect is multiplied and our assumptions about normally safe speeds need to be revised downwards.

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Robert Pepper

Robert Pepper