Australia is the land of wide open roads and rural driving is a significant part of that. No matter how experienced you are, there is one common factor for all drivers on country roads: the roads and surroundings can be unpredictable at times and it pays to be vigilant whilst driving.
Rural road crashes account for more than 65% of the Australian road toll, with crash data suggesting that the majority of rural crashes occur during daylight hours, particularly between 2pm and 6pm. Read on for tips on how to stay safe while driving on country roads:
How to stay safe on country roads
Plan your journey: If you will be taking long journeys on rural roads, map out what towns will be coming up on your travels and ensure you take adequate breaks to help break up the journey.
Obey the road rules: Be aware of differing rules from state to state in Australia.
Reduce your speed to suit the driving conditions: Rural roads are vastly different to city and metropolitan roads, and the conditions of the roads can change in an instant. Dirt and gravel roads are common in rural areas; road shoulders are often unsealed; and many country roads are not well maintained, with unexpected potholes, ruts and corrugations. Slow down and allow a greater margin for error (e.g. a longer stopping distance, or to maintain control around corners)
Be alert for livestock and wildlife: particularly at dusk and dawn when they are most active. At times they can be very unpredictable as to which way they will run and avoiding them becomes a driving hazard.
Know how to navigate narrow roads: A lot of rural roads are effectively one lane roads, with little to no room to move over on the road safely to pass oncoming traffic. Blind corners can also pose problems: the key is showing patience and slowing down when needed.
Ensure your vehicle is roadworthy, registered and in good mechanical working order: If you have vehicle difficulties, e.g. a flat tyre, pull over to a safe, off the road location before taking action, ensuring you can move around outside the car safely and that your hazard lights are flashing.
If it is flooded, forget it: Don’t risk your safety: don’t drive through flood waters.
Be mindful of distance and isolation in remote areas: No one wants to run out of fuel between isolated townships and don’t forget food and water provisions for long journeys.
Keep your loved ones informed of your journey: Be sure to let them know where you are going, and roughly what time to expect you back (even if you have travelled the same roads a hundred times before).
Be aware of different types of vehicles that use rural roads: including road trains, industrial traffic and agricultural machinery. They are all very different to your standard car and extra precautions should be taken when driving around these vehicles. Road trains can be up to 53.5m long, so if overtaking, you need to take precautions in order to get past them safely. A lot of machinery or industrial traffic are much wider than the roads themselves, so showing a bit of patience around these vehicles is a must.
Telephone reception: Not all rural areas will have coverage so be prepared for when that happens. If you will be out on rural roads for long periods of time a satellite phone may be needed.
Gates and cattle grids: Both are commonly used for controlling livestock, particularly cattle, and usually have signage to indicate their usage. These can cause serious damage to vehicles if you are not aware of their presence or if they are not well maintained, so ensure you remain alert while behind the wheel and slow down as necessary.
Dust: Bulldust is a very fine, talcum powder-like dust which can cause major troubles to unsuspecting drivers. Dust can settle in pot holes and make them appear to be flat, smooth road until you hit them at speed. Dust can also cause low visibility when disturbed by passing vehicles or vehicles that have overtaken you.
Driving on country roads at night
Animals and headlights: Remember that some livestock or wildlife may be paralysed by the glare of your headlights. If an animal crosses your path, slow down as safely as possible, flash your headlights and use your horn until they are safely out of your way. Remember not to swerve your vehicle as this can cause you to roll your car, especially at moderate to high speeds.
Oncoming vehicle using their high beams: If you detect that an oncoming vehicle is using their high beams, slow down and try to focus on the road immediately ahead of you, using the road markings to help keep your bearings.
Take regular breaks and try to avoid driving at times you would normally be asleep: research shows that driving between 10pm and 6am has a risk of fatigue-related crashes four times higher than driving at other times during the day. If night time driving is unavoidable, be alert for the early warning signs of fatigue and pull over to rest when needed.
Shine Lawyers - we’re here to help
If you or a loved one has been involved a crash while driving on country roads, you may be able to make a claim. Our team of motor vehicle claim experts can guide you through the legal process to help you get your life back on track.
Written by Shine Lawyers. Last modified: July 31, 2020.