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Speeding and Rural Roads

Speeding is dangerous and it rarely saves time. It:

  • exposes everyone in the vehicle to mote danger
  • Uses more fuel
  • creates more pollution
  • strains the driver
  • causes more damage to the vehicle.

Speed limits are provided to help you to travel safely on rural roads. Your safety can be further improved by several actions you can take yourself. In 1994, speed contributed to nearly one third of all fatal crashes throughout NSW.

Young drivers involved in fatal crashes are far more likely to have been speeding than older drivers.

In 1994, of drivers 21 years or older, involved in fatal crashes, 19% were speeding.

For drivers under 21 involved in fatal crashes, 41% were speeding.

RIGHT SPEED FOR CONDITIONS
Adjust speed according to visibility, light, geography (corners, curves, hills etc), conditions, time of day (eg setting or rising sun) and weather. Rain, fog, mist, snow, sleet, ice and high winds are some special conditions which require driver adjustments. Slowing down makes driving not only easier but safer.

Slow down when glare from the setting or rising sun interferes with visibility. Wildlife feed at these times and are more likely to stray on to roads. 

"Scan" the road a long way ahead to get the "big picture" on what is happening. Anticipate what is happening and slow down early to avoid sudden stops. At the higher speeds of rural driving it is necessary to leave a much larger gap between your car and the vehicle in front. 

Be especially alert where there may he children. They act unpredictably, so slow down.

Slow down when animals are about. When passing through groups of livestock drive very slowly and quietly. 

Overtake only when it is safe with a long, clear, straight stretch of road. After checking, give a signal and check again. Do not overtake on crests of hills, bends, corners, intersections, crossings, bridges. If in doubt, don't! 

Be prepared to slow down and pull back into your lane again at the first sign of approaching vehicles or confusion from other drivers. 

Watch for changes in speed limits when approaching towns.


HIGHWAY/COUNTRY ROAD DRIVING
Country driving requires constants attention to a frequently changing environment - being aware prevailing speed limits and adjusting your speed accordingly. Long distance driving also requires preparation, to avoid fatigue and to maintain alertness during the journey. Get a good sleep before setting out. Don't drive when obviously tired, stressed or ill, and avoid driving during normal sleeping hours. 

Watch for the symptoms of fatigue - boredom, lazy steering, aches, pains, sore eyes, restlessness. Pull over at the safest place and rest for at least half an hour or until recovered. Watch out for fading alertness or "highway hypnosis", and take a half-hour break to recover. Be alert for the presence of crop dusting, or storms of insects (moths, grasshoppers, etc) which can impede vision.

Drive more slowly through cuttings, gorges, winding and unsealed roads and where there are heavy vehicles, wide or dangerous loads (eg explosives or chemicals), farm machinery or school buses.

OBSERVE ALL ROAD SIGNS
Roadside signs and markings on the roadway are there to help you safely on your journey. Advisory speed signs for curves and other warning markers can guide you safely through winding sections of road. Be prepared for special speed restrictitins for road works, and follow the instructions of road workers, flagpersons or temporary traffic signals.

Be aware of soft shoudlers or 'drop off' at the edge of the bitumen. Slow down when approaching one-lane bridges, culverts or causeways and be prepared to stop if necessary. Lower your speed on unsealed roads - they may be rutted, pot-holed or corrugated, which can cause vehicle instability.

RAILWAY CROSSINGS
Railway level crossings occur at irregular intervals on country roads, and require particular care on the part of the approaching driver. Reducing your speed on the approach to all railway crossings is the best way to prepare to stop if necessary. 

Check for the presence of gates, booms or flashing lights at the crossing. If there are none, check in both directions for trains before proceeding. Always check for trains, even when signals do not indicate immediate  danger from approaching trains. 

Check to see if traffic has stopped on the other side of the crossing - this may indicate danger from approaching trains you cannot see. 

Reduce your speed more than normal when approaching sugar cane or wheat train rail crossings - high crops can obstruct sight lines and obscure trains. 

(Courtesy Roads and Traffic Authority of New South Wales.)

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