In Strathcona County, about 35 per cent of collisions each year occur in rural areas. Because of higher speed limits in rural areas, these tend to be the most serious.
Rural driving challenges
Driving in a rural environment presents a number of driving challenges which are unique to the rural setting. Some of the hazards that rural drivers may need to contend with include:
- A large diversity of road users (farm equipment, cyclists, horses, pedestrians, etc.) operating at varied speeds
- Animals on the road
- Railway crossings
- Varying road surfaces
- Higher speed limits which may be coupled with reduced sight lines on curves and hills
In addition to the number of challenges presented by the rural driving environment, rural areas also tend to have decreased compliance with safety driving practices, including lower rates of seat belt usage and increased incidence of stop sign infractions.
Agricultural equipment on roads and highways
During fall, please watch for agricultural equipment on rural roads and highways.
Today's farmer may have fields in several locations, resulting in having to cross public roads with large machinery.
Typical circumstances of a collision involving farm equipment are left-turn collisions, rear-end collisions and passing collisions.
Defensive driving tips for motorists
- Be alert - Watch for farm vehicles on rural roads.
- Keep your distance - Stay at least 15 metres or five car-lengths back.
- Slow down - As soon as you see a slow-moving vehicle, slow down immediately.
- Be patient
- Don't assume a farm vehicle is pulling right to let you pass. Check the left side of the road for gates, driveways or any place a farm vehicle might turn left.
- Don't assume the farmer can move aside to let you pass.
- Don't pass until the road is clear of traffic and you are positive it is safe to pass.
- Make sure you're clear - When passing, make sure you can see the farm vehicle in your rear-view mirror before you change back into the right lane.
Wildlife on roads
Over 50 percent of collisions involving wildlife in Strathcona County happen in October, November and December.
Many species are more active at dawn and dusk, particularly deer and moose during the fall mating season. Animals are unpredictable, especially when faced with glaring headlights, blowing horns and fast-moving vehicles.
Reduce the chance of a collision with wildlife
- Stay alert and drive at a speed appropriate to road conditions.
- Scan the road and ditches ahead for animals.
- Reduce speed at night, especially on unfamiliar rural roads where wildlife frequently cross. i.e. near water, wooded areas and open spaces.
- Look for more than one animal – some species travel in groups.
- Leave plenty of room when driving around an animal on or near a road.
- Slow down if an animal is on or near the road and be prepared to stop as their behaviour can be unpredictable
- Take extra care when you see wildlife signs.
What to do if you are in a wildlife collision
If you strike an animal, take the appropriate actions to have the animal removed from the road.
When safe to do so pull over, put on your four way flashers and contact your local police for assistance. Police can make arrangements to have the animal removed from the roadway or safely put down the animal, if needed.
If you just drive away after a collision and leave the animal on the road, another motorist may strike it or swerve to avoid the animal, causing potential injury or damage.
Safety is a shared responsibility
Here are some tips for both pedestrians and drivers to remember when traveling on rural roads:
- In areas without sidewalks, pedestrians should always walk on the left side of the road facing traffic.
- Riders, on bikes or horses, are considered vehicles and should always travel single file on the right side of the road with traffic.
- Drivers, please be courteous. Slow down and only pass other road users when there is no oncoming traffic.
Tip! Always wear bright or reflective clothing, especially during dawn or dusk, so drivers can see you.
Avoid being a statistic!
From 2004-2013, 78% of fatal collisions in the County happened in rural areas. This is consistent with the provincial average.
- Slow down and drive to the conditions. About 33% of fatal collisions were the result of the driver losing control of the vehicle and either crossing the centre line or running off the road. When you go faster, you also have less time to react to hazards such as unexpected animals or slow moving vehicles.
- Don't get lulled into thinking that you can speed in rural areas because it is a beautiful day and the roads are dry.
- 68% of fatal crashes happened when roads were dry
- 82% occurred in clear weather
- 63% occurred during daylight hours
- Keep to your side of the road, particularly when travelling on hills or curves.
- 25% of fatal crashes were head on collisions.
- Come to a full stop at stop signs and ensure it is safe to proceed.
- 25% of rural fatalities occurred at stop controlled intersections.
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