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Rural Road Safety: Low-Cost Enhancements for Back Roads

Our nation’s highways and major roadways seem to receive a great deal of national focus; however, rural road safety is just as important.  In fact, rural roads can be even more dangerous because of poor lighting, and are likely to contain dangerous road conditions such as potholes, flooding and sink holes.  In general, they are not maintained as well as the major thoroughfares.  There are a variety of low cost safety enhancements that can be installed on rural roads to make them safer for drivers. 

Retroreflective signs can prove more important for rural road safety than on major roadways.  These roads are often so dark that drivers cannot see what is coming past their headlight beams.  For instance, a road that takes a 90-degree turn may never be seen by drivers on rural roads.  Since most rural roads do not contain street lights or headlights from other cars, hazards can be difficult to see.  A simple reflective sign warning drivers of an unexpected turn may be all that is needed to prevent a driver from leaving the roadway. 

Temporary water-over-road signs are another inexpensive addition to keep drivers safe.  Rural roads are often built over marshy areas that may not have been backfilled.  Following a heavy rain, roadways may be washed out or experience flooding.  While these areas may be safe to drive through at a low speed, drivers often do not see them and encounter them at higher speeds than they can safely maneuver through.  Having a temporary sign that can be erected following heavy rains helps alert drivers to dangerous water hazards. 

More permanent hazard markers can be installed along problem areas of rural roadways.  Areas that frequently flood, have steep ravines on either side, or roads that run may encounter other potentially dangerous conditions can benefit from these devices.  These markers consist of a simple post and reflector or a Type III hazard marker that can be installed in the ground to show drivers where the edge of the roadway is both night and day, and alert a motorist to a roadside hazard.

Safety is a conscious consideration in an engineer’s mind when he addresses major thoroughfares; however, rural roads also need safety enhancements.  Flooding, poor road maintenance and other hazards make these roadways even more dangerous than well-built and well-lit freeways.  These tips for road safety can help keep drivers safe.