Rural road driving
Gravel roadways are typical in Iowa’s rural areas and pose additional hazards compared to paved roadways. Stopping or turning on loose gravel is more difficult compared to pavement because tire traction is reduced, and skidding can occur as traction is lost. A “washboard” effect can occur on gravel roads. This is a series of potholes than can affect steering and vehicle control. When driving on gravel, you must slow down. It will take much longer to stop and it is much easier to skid when turning.
During dry periods of the year, gravel roads can become extremely dusty and vision can be reduced. It is recommended that drivers use low beam headlights to make the vehicle more visible to others.
Unsignalized intersections or those without a traffic light pose problems for all drivers. Vehicles that are stopping or slowing to turn create differences in speed that are often hard for drivers to judge. In addition these roadways often carry vehicles traveling at high speeds. The National Cooperative Highway Research Program (NCHRP) Report 500 Series, A Guide for Addressing Unsignalized Intersection Collisions provides recommendations on ways to improve safety at these locations. To access a copy of the report, click here or visit http://onlinepubs.trb.org/Onlinepubs.
Here are some tips to help drivers stay safe at uncontrolled intersections.
- Slow down. Do not drive through an uncontrolled intersection and assume you have the right-of-way. Slow down, prepare to yield and look both ways before proceeding.
- Know who goes first. When more than one vehicle is stopped at an intersection, the driver on the left must yield the right-of-way to the driver on the right. When it is your turn to go, look both ways, roll forward slowly and use caution as you enter the intersection. If you are turning left at an uncontrolled intersection, you need to give the right-of-way to oncoming traffic.
- If you are entering a street from a driveway or private road, yield to all drivers on the roadway before proceeding. The same rule applies when turning on to the highway from a country road.
- Yield to all pedestrians. Pedestrians always have the right-of-way and motorists must stop for pedestrians who are preparing to cross at marked and unmarked crosswalks. You also need to stop for wheelchairs, motorized wheelchairs, medical scooters, and people walking beside their bicycles because they are considered pedestrians as well.
- Give way to emergency vehicles. Ambulances, fire trucks and police vehicles with lights flashing and sirens sounding take priority over all other traffic. Pull over to the side of the road and do not proceed until emergency vehicles are safely through the intersection.
Slow moving vehicles
It is common to encounter slow-moving vehicles on Iowa roadways, such as farm equipment, animal drawn vehicles and road maintenance equipment. It is important to identify these vehicles early and slow down when meeting them or coming up behind them.
Slow-moving equipment may make wide turns, either left or right at unmarked entrances. Some farm equipment is wider than the road itself. Make sure the driver of the slow-moving vehicle can see your vehicle before passing, and always use extreme caution when passing. The Iowa DOT released a memo on tips for driving on rural roads during harvest season. For more information, click here or visit the Iowa DOT's Web site at http://www.iowadot.gov.
When following an animal drawn vehicle you should leave a measurable distance between you and the animal drawn vehicle, so you have time to react if a dangerous situation arises. In many cases, the driver of the animal drawn vehicle may not be able to see you. Following too closely may put not only yourself at risk, but the passengers of the animal drawn vehicle as well. In addition, if the vehicle is being pulled by a horse, they can be easily spooked and are unpredictable.
While animals can be present on any roadway, drivers often encounter more animals on rural roads as these roads extend through wildlife habitats and close to farms with livestock. Be aware and look for animals while driving on rural roads, especially at sunrise and sunset.
Deer are by far the highest cause of animal related automobile crashes. October and November are the peak months for deer accidents. If an animal is spotted, slow down and be prepared to stop. If there is not time to stop or avoid the animal, do not swerve sharply. The driver’s chance of getting seriously hurt are decreased if he/she hits the animal and avoids swerving into oncoming traffic or rolling the vehicle over in the ditch. Deer travel in groups, so always look for more animals if one is seen.