For many urban dwellers, the promise of a drive through a bucolic farming region – far away from urban congestion – seems inviting, even relaxing. But that doesn’t mean fleet drivers should let down their guard while traveling through rural areas.
Rural roads can pose a variety of dangers. Animals darting across the road, slow-moving farm vehicles just over the crest of a hill, low spots covered in rainwater – these are just a few examples.
A study released last year by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration examined fatal crashes that occurred in 2012. Although 19 percent of the U.S. population lived in rural areas, rural fatalities represented 54 percent of all traffic fatalities in 2012. The study also found that the fatality rate per 100 million vehicle miles traveled was 2.4 times higher in rural areas than in urban areas (1.86 and 0.77, respectively).
Thirty-one percent (5,660) of the rural road fatalities were related to speeding. Alcohol-impaired driving and lower seat belt use were also major factors contributing to the higher rate of fatal crashes on rural roads.
According to the Ohio Department of Public Safety, these are some of the hazards that drivers should keep in mind:
- Rural roads aren’t always designed for fast and efficient travel. You may encounter unpaved roads, gravel surfaces or roads without regular maintenance.
- Expect blind spots, steep hills and sharp curves.
- A narrow road width doesn’t allow for safe passing.
- Rural roads often lack signage and night lighting.
- Rural roads often lack shoulders or guardrails, even with the presence of deep ditches.
- Common obstacles include slow-moving vehicles (see video), livestock and wild animals, fallen trees and landslide debris.
- Railroad crossings might lack gates or lights to warn of an oncoming train, so always stop and look both ways carefully before proceeding.
- Tall crops and weeds may limit sight distance.
- Trees, mailboxes and utility poles may be very close to the road.
The conditions above may require driving below the posted speed limit and using extra caution, the Ohio Department of Public Safety advises. Remember, in the event of a crash, it may take longer for emergency services to arrive. Here are some additional tips and warnings you can pass along to fleet drivers:
- Always wear your seatbelt.
- Pay attention to, and be aware of, changing road conditions.
- Gravel roads have less traction, so applying the brakes hard or turning sharply may cause your vehicle to skid.
- Slow down and be patient behind slow-moving vehicles. Only pass them when it’s legal and safe.
To view a video about the hazards posed by slow-moving farm vehicles, click on the photo or link below the headline. The Pennsylvania Farm Bureau produced the video.