12- Driving on Rural Roads

Drivers Icon Teaching Your Teen to Drive

Goal: Teach your teen to drive safely and with confidence on two-lane rural roads.
Location: A two-lane rural road.

Coach your teen to notice and respond to these hazards:

Large/slow vehicles: Slower trucks, farm vehicles and road maintenance equipment are likely to make wide turns at unmarked entrances. Use caution and make sure the driver can see your vehicle before passing.

Sharp drop-offs and gravel shoulders: One of the most common driving hazards is running off the road. The urge to overcorrect is strong, and often results in a serious crash. If you run off the road, follow these steps to ease your vehicle back onto the road:

  • Do not turn the wheel; continue driving straight.
  • Take your foot off the accelerator.
  • Find a safe place to reenter the road.
  • Turn on your turn signal, and re-enter the road when it is clear.

Blind spots: Trees, cornfields, buildings and hills can block a driver’s view of oncoming traffic or traffic entering from the side. Identify blind spots to better anticipate and prepare for potential dangers.

Uncontrolled intersections: They are not controlled by yield or stop signs. Use caution, slow down, and prepare to stop for oncoming traffic. The vehicle on the right has the right of way. The vehicle on the left should yield.

Animals: If unable to stop for an animal crossing the road, do NOT swerve – swerving makes it hard to keep control. The most serious crashes happen when drivers swerve into oncoming traffic or roll into a ditch.

If you see an animal, slow down and prepare to stop. Always be on the lookout, especially at sunrise and sunset. October and November are peak months for deer crashes – the most common type. Deer travel in groups; if you see one, look for more.

Hills and curves: These are often steeper and sharper on rural roads than on Interstate highways. Before reaching the crest of a hill or entering a curve, slow down, move to the right side and watch for traffic.

Railroad crossings: Always slow down, look both ways and prepare to stop. Many railroad crossings are marked only with a round yellow railroad crossing ahead warning sign and a white X-shaped railroad crossing. There may not be flashing lights, warning bells, crossing gates or pavement markings.

If you do see a train, remember that the train you see is closer and faster-moving than you think. Wait for it to pass by before you proceed across the tracks, as trains cannot stop quickly. Even if the locomotive engineer sees you, a freight train moving at 55 miles per hour can take a mile or more to stop once the emergency brakes are applied. That’s 18 football fields!

Remind your teen to never drive around lowered gates — it’s illegal and deadly. If you suspect a signal is malfunctioning, you should call the emergency number posted on or near the crossing signal or your local law enforcement agency.

Do not get trapped on the tracks; proceed through a railroad crossing only if you are sure you can completely clear the crossing without stopping. Remember, the train is three feet wider than the tracks on both sides.

If your vehicle ever stalls on a track with a train coming, get out immediately and move quickly away from the tracks in the direction from which the train is coming. If you run in the same direction the train is traveling, when the train hits your car you could be injured by flying debris. Call your local law enforcement agency for assistance.

Road conditions

Crashes on rural roads account for 57 percent of all traffic fatalities. Help your teen understand that some road conditions and driving hazards are unique to rural roads.