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:
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!