You are trying to get home; the main road is bumper to bumper. You turn off the main road and try to find another road that runs parallel and is less crowded. You turn onto the first one you find and it is a gravel road. You groan. You think "my car is going to get filthy" but you want to get home. What you are not usually thinking is "I’m going to ruin the underbody"; "if I hit a pothole, I’m going to damage my tires or wheels"; "what is a safe speed on gravel?" Clearly, if you have any driving experience at all, you must know that gravel road travel is not the same as paved road travel. Here are some safety tips for travel on gravel:
Speeding is, perhaps, the cause of most accidents and/or collisions that occur on gravel roads. It is important that you slow down as you enter a gravel road or portion of the road. Test your car’s reaction to the surface; different roads have different gravel content. Some are hard-packed, almost like asphalt. Some are soft and loose. Some are a mixture of both. Some are well maintained and some are not. Your driving technique is important, but the much safer method of avoiding an accident is, simply, to slow down to a safe speed.
Maintenance: You must keep your car well maintained. Loose parts, poor suspension, poor alignment, and, especially, low or over inflated tires, will hinder your car’s performance on gravel. Read your owner’s manual for tire pressure recommendations and keep your tire pressure at those recommended levels. Tire pressure that is too low or too high will have a serious impact on your car’s performance on gravel.
Handling: When driving on gravel, you must pay attention to your vehicle’s handling and performance on gravel. The road surface is what it is; you have no control of that. You do have control of how fast you are going, whether you suddenly change direction (jerk to left or right to avoid a pothole or oil spot, for instance). These things can cause you to lose control, slide, land in a ditch, or worse, cause a rollover. Do not swerve to miss an animal; you may lose control. Try to slow down; but, please, don’t swerve to avoid. It is wise, even if you are the only driver on the road, to stay on the correct side and path of travel. Keep away from loose gravel at the side of the road; this may cause you to slide into the ditch or roll over. Follow tire tracks, if possible; this will provide firmer ground. If another vehicle comes along, your will avoid having to suddenly jerk back into your lane and you will avoid scaring the hell out of the oncoming driver which could cause a collision. Be careful around corners or crests; it may be difficult to avoid "meeting" an oncoming vehicle on a blind curve. If you are traveling behind someone on gravel, keep a safe distance between you and the car in front of you. Remember, it is harder to stop on gravel, you could slide into the lead vehicle if it comes to a sudden stop. Also, the vehicle in front could throw a stone at your windshield. So, keep a safe distance. Consider traveling in a lower gear; you will experience tighter control and less need to brake.
Weather: Snow and ice in the winter, or spring rain can make gravel roads less safe, requiring more caution. Snow can cover potholes and other surface defects; ice can make gravel roads treacherous in spots. Rain can cause a gravel road to become muddy and silt can be as slippery as ice. The best bet in rainy, snowy or icy conditions is to maintain slower than posted speeds and maintain a straight path of travel, avoiding sudden changes in direction. On a dry, sunny day, on a rural, dusty road, dust can decrease visibility, and prevent you from seeing the car in front of you, or, the car behind from seeing you.
Traffic Signs: If there is a known, substantial change in pitch or surface, or a defect in the road, there will often be a sign warning of the change. Observe the sign and the warning. Slow down when necessary. Remember, there is less traction on a gravel surface.
Lawsuit Financial, the pro-justice lawsuit funding company, advises all readers to drive carefully, avoid speeding, and travel in accordance with weather and road conditions. Simple safety prevents accidents and lawsuits.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series—Mark Bello is also the CEO of Lawsuit Financial and the country’s leading expert in providing non-recourse lawsuit funding to plaintiffs involved in pending litigation. He is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.