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Country Roads – How to Stay Safe

In 1971, singer-songwriter John Denver sang the words “country roads, take me home.” Here in the Midwest, we understand those words quite well. Country roads lead us to friends, families, and activities. Driving down country roads are a frequent summer pass time for drivers for all ages. We love to drive down them slowly taking our time and taking in the sunshine. We love to pull off to the side of them and fish in a hidden creek. But even with less traffic and a serene environment, you must stay safe while driving. In fact, less traffic and population on these roads bring different problems than in-town driving such as weather, animals, the make-up of the roads, and other country road utilizers. According to the Illinois Farm Bureau, keep these three things in mind when using country roads for summer driving.

One: Consider Rural Road Characteristics and Conditions

The make-up of rural roads is much different than town and city roads. To start, less maintenance happens on country roads, which leads to pot holes in the road. Drivers should avoid pot holes; however, if a driver cannot go around a pot hole, then she should drive slowly over the hole. Hitting a pot hole at too fast of a speed can result in a popped tire. Many times, city municipals fix pot holes with gravel or by oiling and chipping them.

Also, many rural roads are graveled roads. A gravel road is much more dangerous than a finished, paved road due to the loose structure of the road. A fast moving car on gravel can lead to the driver losing control of the vehicle and creating a fatal car accident.

Lastly, the construction and layout of rural roads differ from more suburban roads. Rural roads tend to be narrow, without markings. Many do not have shoulders, which makes road navigation even more difficult. In additional, you may have limited visibility on these roads with hills in which the other side cannot be seen by the driver.

The Illinois Farm Bureau recommends that drivers slowly travel down these roads. Slow travel allows drivers to have more time to respond to an unexpected barrier on the road. In short, country roads mean drive slow and with caution!

Two: Weather

Just as rural roads have their own defining characteristics, country roads come with their own natural disturbances. In areas without foliage, during the early stages of planting, or after harvesting of crops, gusting winds can cause difficulty as you drive on country roads. These winds can cause dirt clouds to accumulate causing visibility to decrease. Lacking foliage during times of high winds can cause difficult driving circumstances due to a lacking wind break. High winds can cause field debris to scatter across the road creating driving barriers.

During the early morning, fog can also cause limited visibility as well. Since you may not encounter this regularly as you drive from Des Plaines or Mount Prospect, slow down and use your fog lights if your car has them. The Illinois Farm Bureau advises drivers to check weather reports before heading out on the roads. Lastly, use caution during a period of strong winds or decreased visibility.

Three: Sharing Country Roads with Others

While country roads tend to be less populated, different kinds of people use them. On early weekday mornings, watch for large school buses picking up the local children. At all times of the day, rural mail carriers deliver the mail with hazard lights blinking. The Farm Bureau encourages drivers to follow the specific rules made for when sharing the road with these official vehicles. Both buses and letter carriers make frequent stops on country roads. Drivers should remain cautious and aware of their surroundings by being a defensive driver.

Country roads also accommodate multiple of kinds of pedestrians: walkers, runners, and even horseback riders. When sharing the road with these users, drivers should remain cautious and give plenty of room to the pedestrians. Drivers should refrain from using sound for it may startle the pedestrians, and in instances of horseback riders, the horse causing additional harm and injury.

Additionally, when you are on vacation or out on country roads yourself for a walk, stay vigilant for cars. You may follow all of the tips provided, but other drivers may not. If you do get injured while walking or biking on a country road, you should contact an attorney. For a free consultation, contact the Law Offices of R.F. Wittmeyer, Ltd. for any pedestrian accident on a country road.

Beware of Tractors

As you may have previously experienced, tractors and other various farming equipment frequent these rural roads.  During planting and harvesting season, farming vehicles run up and down the roads. Planting season typically runs in the Spring from April to May.However, this can differ farmer to farmer around the state of Illinois while harvest occurs in the fall months. During these times, drivers are likely to encounter large, slow moving farm machinery on the road or see the vehicles parked on the side of the road.

The Farm Bureau recommends paying attention to posted road signs. Additionally, watch for the farm equipment turn signals at all times especially prior to passing the vehicle. The official sign for slow moving vehicles (traditionally under 25 miles per hour) is a red-orange triangle. When you see this sign, slow down!


How To Stay Safe on Country Roads this Summer and Fall

Ultimately, the Farm Bureau states that drivers on country roads should operate with common courtesy. This means that drivers should:

  • Stay alert
  • Remain patient and pass with caution once it is safe to do so
  • Allow other to pass
  • Maintain a safe following distance
  • Give adequate space to pedestrians
  • Do not utilize the car horn unless necessary
  • Stay in your lane
  • Use your blinker when appropriate, and
  • As always, keep your cell phone down! No distracted driving!

Have fun this summer and fall getting away from the hustle and bustle of the city!

R.F. Wittmeyer

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