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Driving On Gravel Roads: What You Need To Know

Driving on gravel roads is very different from driving on paved streets and highways. If you don’t adjust your driving habits accordingly, you’re likely to lose control of your vehicle and end up in a ditch, or worse. Here’s why gravel roads are more dangerous and some tips to navigate them safely.

car on a mountainous gravel road

Why Driving On A Gravel Road Is Dangerous

Several things make gravel roads potentially more dangerous than paved roads:

  • Loose, uneven surface. Your tires have less traction on gravel due to the loose stones and ridged surface.
  • Less space. Gravel roads usually have tracks for just one vehicle. Passing or overtaking vehicles requires pulling over where there’s more chance of losing control.
  • More surprises. In rural areas you’re more likely to encounter livestock, wildlife, tractors, grain trucks, felled trees and other unexpected obstacles.
  • Less visibility. Other vehicles create dust that can reduce visibility even on the clearest days.

As you can see, driving on gravel presents a number of potentially dangerous challenges.

Tips For Driving On Gravel Roads

With the above in mind, here are some tips for safely driving on gravel roads:

  • Slow down. Reducing your speed will give you more control and more time to stop or avoid unexpected hazards. This is especially true when moving from a paved road to gravel.
  • Brake and steer gently. Avoid sudden changes in direction or speed. Hitting the brakes or steering too hard will cause your tires to lose traction.
  • Drive in the tracks. The tracks left from former traffic are where the road surface is most solid and smooth. Most of the loose gravel is found on the shoulder. If you do need to pull over for oncoming vehicles, reduce your speed and stop if you need to.
  • Keep your distance. Dust, flying stones and debris falling from trucks and trailers all present potential hazards. Keep at least six seconds of driving time between you and the vehicle in front of you.

The most important thing is never drive out of your comfort zone. Drive slowly and carefully at speeds where you feel you have complete control. If you do lose control, take your foot off the gas and steer in the direction you want to go.

 

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