HOW TO BE A SAFER GRAVEL ROAD DRIVER AND BEING PREPARED FOR THE UNEXPECTED
Many drivers travel gravel roads on a daily bases to and from work. Gravel roads are a floating surface and conditions constantly change very quickly on a gravel road. Wind can carry lose sand onto the gravel or water can wash away the top soil exposing dangerous potholes and rocks.
Understanding these changes in conditions one can adjust your driving style and speed to ensure your safety while traveling by gravel road. Many of us have heard bad stories of drivers loosing control while traveling on these unpredicted surfaces.
Gravel Road Braking
Traveling Safe speeds
Planning for the Unexpected
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Some driving experience is a bonus but not a necessary.
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Traveling by Gravel Road
The changing in surface conditions
Safest ways to travel by Gravel Road
What is a safe speed to travel?
What to do when you loose control
Checking the condition of your vehicle
Over Steer and Under Steer
Gravel Road Driving
Many licensed drivers have never driven on gravel roads or are inexperienced and unprepared for the unique challenges when doing so. We must equip ourselves with the knowledge and skills required to adjust our driving behavior when moving away from tarred roads to gravel roads.
What is Gravel Road?
To consider safe driving techniques on gravel roads we need to start with a better understanding of the nature of gravel roads. Gravel is small, broken-down rock material. It can be obtained from a number of sources, such as rubble from a quarry, or from naturally occurring deposits in the earth. Particle size is generally no bigger than 2 cm in diameter. It is used as a base material in the construction of roads, buildings and other structures. On less trafficked roads, it is not viable to seal the road with bitumen, concrete or other materials, so the road is left with a gravel surface.
Challenges to Safe Driving on Gravel Roads
Gravel roads present their own unique challenges to safe driving and should be approached with caution each and every time the driver encounters one! If a driver is not aware of these challenges and how to address them he/ she will have a formula for trouble.When travelling on gravel roads in rural areas and farm country it is not only the road surface you need to be aware of. You are more likely to encounter broken fences next to the gravel roads as well as wildlife and livestock such as cattle and sheep on the roads.
You can expect to share the roads with a variety of other unique road users such as tractors, grain trucks, quad bikes, cyclists etc.
Most gravel roads are narrow, but still accommodate two-way traffic, without the aid of a center line. Some have a soft, sloping shoulder – or none at all.
Unpredictability of the road surface
Construction materials, weather, traffic volumes, and vehicle weights can change the condition of a gravel road very quickly. The road you travel tonight may not be the same as the road you travelled in the morning.
Visibility and Dust
Visibility can be an issue due to the dust clouds kicked up by your vehicle, by those travelling ahead or even from the farming activities next to the roads. Dust will impede your visibility significantly. It is however not only the dust but also the loose gravel and pebbles that poses a risk. Flying stones are a hazard to be aware of, especially if you don’t want to lose a headlight, or windshield.
Weather Conditions and Rain
Rain plus gravel equals mud. Mud is like gravel, except much more slippery. The mud you have to be most cautious of is the fine layer of mud that can form on the surface of the road during rain. This mud works as a lubricant between the tyres of your car and the hard surface of the road underneath. If the rain is really heavy, it may just turn the road into a soft muddy surface that could easily entrap you.
Increased risk of roll-over
If a vehicle drifts too far to the side and the tyres go off the packed surface a roll-over can easily result from driving off the gravel surface.
High speed and quick manoeuvres on gravel roads are ingredients for disaster. Even really well-maintained gravel roads tend to have rough sections and loose gravel that require lower speeds – Most accidents can be prevented simply by slowing down.
Your vehicle will handle differently when it moves from one surface to another. The gravel may be loose or it may be hard-packed; you want to know how your vehicle handles before you speed up. By slowing down you will make cornering safer, and braking distances will be reduced.
Accelerate and brake slowly and reduce your speed when approaching intersections, curves and hills. Always drive at a speed that allows you to stop easily for any hazard. Be considerate as well! As you approach other vehicles, slow down and move over to the side so you can pass each other safely.
When you’re driving on gravel, it’s generally a good idea to drive in existing tyre tracks worked into the gravel even if there’s only one set of tracks in the center of the road. If you’re climbing a hill or see a vehicle coming in the opposite direction be prepared to slow down and pull over to side.
Maintain effective following distance.
Even if the visibility is good and the road is hard-packed, stay at least six seconds behind other vehicles and allow enough time and space. This reduces the danger from a cloud of dust obscuring vision or flying rocks damaging headlights and windshields. Increase this distance when conditions are less than perfect and rain or dust reduces your visibility.
Gravel Road Driving Rectification
The gravel road certificate is valid for 2 years and needs to be renewed within 2 months of expiry to avoid having to redo the whole course.