Living in a rural area tends to be a peaceful experience, and some people like nothing better than to escape from a busy city and head to the tranquility of the countryside. Which is great… until you encounter rural roads for the first time!
Rural driving can be nerve-wracking for both new and experienced drivers. Inaccurate signage, poor GPS signals, animal obstacles, and gravel and dirt roads can all push a driver to their limits, especially if they’re driving at night or in bad weather.
Despite these issues, you can do a few things when driving your rental car in a rural area that will keep you safe and make the experience less intimidating.
City Roads vs. Rural Roads
Despite the increased traffic, city driving tends to be safer than rural driving. The roads are normally paved (resulting in better traction), stop signs and traffic lights are more numerous, and speed limits are typically lower and more heavily enforced. Unfortunately, all of these safety factors disappear when driving your rental car in rural areas. A September 2009 study from the UK found that the risk of fatal accidents on rural roads is 40% higher than in more-populated or developed areas. Moreover, you’re more at risk of needing hospitalization following rural accidents than you are following accidents in populated areas.
Inexperienced Drivers and Rural Roads
Rural roads pose the greatest threat to the safety of those drivers who received their license in the last year or so. A study out of Australia (which has innumerable rural roads) found that younger drivers are more at risk of being involved in single-car accidents resulting in life-threatening injuries. Speeding on curved roads—commonly found in rural areas—was on of the main factors of this increased risk. Make sure to teach your kids about the importance of slowing down on rural roads, especially when said roads aren’t paved. Curves and other obstacles can pop up out of nowhere on rural roads, so make sure you drive your rental car carefully when you’re out in the country.
Safe Rural Road Driving
Rural roads present challenges to everyone, regardless of their driving experience. Whether you drive rural roads on a regular basis or are just taking your rental car out for a spin, there are a few things you can do to increase your odds of arriving safely at your destination.
As mentioned before, many rural roads have plenty of blind curves, dips, and various obstacles. When coming up to a blind curve or dip in your rental car, especially at night, you need to slow down and stay as far to the right as you can. Doing so helps you avoid potential collisions with other cars, and gives you enough time to stop if an unseen animal is crossing the road. Another thing to watch out for on rural roads, especially if you see a large cloud of dust, is farm equipment. Some of these vehicles can take up a large chunk of the road, so be careful.
Furthermore, make sure you fill your gas tank, and remember that it doesn’t hurt to keep some additional fuel in your rental car’s trunk. Getting lost on rural roads is a lot easier to do than you think, so make sure you either have a GPS unit or an up-to-date map on hand. Make sure you have a properly inflated spare tire and a jack in case you get a flat; not only will it take forever for a tow truck to get to you, but it will likely cost an arm and a leg to be towed back into town. And don’t forget to carry emergency supplies with you in case of unforeseen circumstances.
If you’re driving your rental car down a rural road and find yourself unable to stop when coming up on an animal crossing the road, remember not to swerve—keep driving, and stay in your lane if possible. Swerving only makes it harder for you to keep control of the vehicle. If you come upon a deer or another similar animal that’s standing on the side of the road, slow down and give it plenty of space. These types of animals can be very unpredictable, so it doesn’t hurt to play it safe in a case like this.
Ready to embark on a rural adventure? Then book your rental using our handy comparison tool today!