Defensive Driving on Rural Roads

Brown_County_Indiana_-_Lonely_road_(2982441209)Indiana has some great cities, but there’s a lot more rural farmland and county roads than there are highways linking everything together. Those country roads may not always be in the best shape, and different weather can make driving on them much more difficult than you may experience on a highway. Plus, the deeper into farmland you get, the more likely you are to run across a giant piece of farm equipment crawling down the road at no more than 25 mph. Here are a few tips and tricks for navigating obstacles on country roads.


Rain and Snow

Counties don’t always have the kind of money to make sure their roads are maintained properly. That’s not to say they aren’t safe, but there may be potholes or loose gravel on the roads that can make driving a little less safe. This is made worse in the rain, where roads can get incredibly slick, and swerving around a pothole can mean you end up in a ditch.  Even just stopping can be hazardous.  Make sure you leave plenty of room between yourself and the car in front of you.  Decreasing your speed can help you come to a complete stop when a traffic light or stop sign catches you by surprise.


During the winter months, snow and ice can make roads incredibly hazardous. Counties may only have one or two trucks available to plow snow or spread salt, so driving with care is very important. In the case of either rain or snow, it’s a good idea to slow down and take your time. If you’re in an area you aren’t familiar with, look for stop signs. In the case of snow or ice, sometimes not driving anywhere is your best bet. If you don’t need to go out, don’t.



When you’re out on country roads late at night, you’ll notice a distinct lack of artificial light. Sometimes the stars are so bright it might as well be day, but that’s not always the case. There usually aren’t many streetlamps out on rural roads, unless you’re in a particularly residential part of the area. Animals can scurry out in front of you when you’re driving at night, causing you to swerve, or in some cases, run into them. Hitting anything with your car can cause damage; so again, your best bet is to slow down. Make sure you consistently check that all of your car’s lights are in working order. If there are no other cars ahead of you, turn on your high-beams to increase visibility.


Farm Equipment

It might be a tractor pulling a harrow, or it might be a huge combine harvester scooting down the road, but in either case, it’s probably going pretty slow and likely holding up traffic. This is a common experience out on rural roads, and one that not many drivers know how to safely navigate.


Patience is your best friend when passing agricultural equipment. Sometimes a piece of equipment may take up more space on the road than would allow you to safely pass. The machinery may quickly move from half on the road to entirely on the road to miss a mailbox or street sign, and being next to it when it would do so would be dangerous. Look for turn signals or hand signals from the driver that might indicate that the machine is turning left.


Overall, be cautious on county and rural roads. Drive with caution, and be aware of your surroundings. It never hurts to take things a little slower.


Share your back roads stories with us here, or offer tips on safe driving in rural Indiana.

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