If you are an owner operator truck driver who is used to urban, suburban, and interstate driving, you may feel that you can drive anywhere. But if you haven’t been in rural areas, your previous experience won’t guaranty safe driving in these places. On the face of it, it would seem that driving in the country is safe. After all, there are fewer cars on the road. This is a common misconception and the truth is that accidents on rural roads have a high fatality rate. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration states that the fatalities per mile driven on rural roads exceed those of urban roads.
The reason for this difference comes down to the drivers in these areas as well as the nature of the roads. Less traffic allows motorists to drive as fast as they want, often faster than the speed limit. Motorists also believe they are less likely to encounter law enforcement. The roads are typically narrow with soft shoulders. Road curves are sometimes too sharp for the speed limit, although some will have a recommended speed sign. Road defects such as frost heaves and potholes aren’t always promptly repaired.
The owner operator truck driver will find the narrow roads and soft shoulders very tight and unforgiving of mistakes. This also means that the roads prevent other motorists who are driving too fast from recovering from their mistakes. This increases your risk of being involved in a head-on collision with them.
Road obstacles are another problem. These include animals crossing the road, slow-moving tractors, and fallen tree limbs. The small shoulders mean that cars parked on the side of the road require you to move into the left lane to get by them. Because there are fewer buildings and houses, the roads have little background lighting at night. You will be totally reliant on your headlights for spotting animals and road obstructions.
The owner operator truck driver must drive slowly while maintaining a good following distance. Keep your headlights on during the day to increase your visibility. Stay focused and be careful of the passing stripes on the highways. While the passing zone is sufficient for a car, it may be too short for you.