Country Roads and over taking Lanes

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Something that has shown itself for quite a number of years and even more so in the last 10 years is the inexperience of city drivers on country roads. Many of the country roads we have here in Western Australia are actually very good, especially when you compare them with other states. But there are still many roads that require more concentration on behalf of the drivers than most drivers acknowledge.  And it is the lack of concentration on country roads that is the biggest cause of issues and incidents, sometimes fatal. This concentration also refers to knowing the depth of your driving skills and minimising the chances of “coming unstuck”! I have also sometimes questioned whether coming off “P” plates after the required time really is enough when it comes to our open roads. This applies to new drivers, young or older, our open country road requires a depth of experience that, at first is not so obvious but is in reality boils down to simply paying attention to your driving all the time!

Open roads speeds.

In conjunction with the lack of effort towards concentration, driving on the open road at speeds that are 10 kph or more below the sign-posted speed requirement for no good reason other than, “That’s the speed I want to travel at”, demonstrates a level of arrogance that is just as woeful and dangerous as those who cut in front of you on the freeway. Driving on a Derestricted road  ” Image result for Australian derestricted road signs” or “Image result for Australian derestricted road signs ” does not mean you can do what you want, being in control of a vehicle in a derestricted “Image result for Australian derestricted road signs”  or “Image result for Australian derestricted road signs” area, still means that you have a responsibility to provide a safe driving environment for yourself, your passengers and other drivers on the road. This is a condition of obtaining a driving licence. This is an excerpt taken from the “Drive Safe” hand booklet handed out to learner drivers.

1.10 The Ten Rules to Safe Driving

Road safety experts believe that if every driver followed these Ten Rules to Safe Driving,
the road trauma rate would be dramatically reduced. The Ten Rules to Safe Driving are:
1. Drive at a safe speed;
2. Don’t drink and drive;
3. Obey the road rules;
4. Concentrate at all times and be prepared;
5. Be patient, and when in doubt, don’t proceed;
6. Plan your moves well in advance;
7. Give correct signals;
8. Be alert particularly at intersections;
9. Know your vehicle; and
10. Be polite and considerate toward other road users.

Driving too slow contradicts points 1. and 10., just as driving too fast does. And fails to provide a safe driving environment for other road users.

It is about time that the speed limit signs were reconsidered, to be called “Speed requirement/limit signs.”

Vehicle preparation.

Nearly all vehicles are set up for city driving especially when we are talking about steering geometry. What this means is, that the way the steering is set up, it will return the most kilometres verses tier wear. But this can make the steering over-responsive and somewhat twitchy at higher speeds on roads that are not of the same uniform shape as city roads are. There is a way of safely changing this with a wheel alignment but I would only do this if you intended to do a lot of country driving as it will by nature of the adjustments increase the wear on the front ties by a small amount. And should never be attempted by the unskilled!

The adjustment is made to what is called toe in / toe out. Most vehicles these days use toe out because they are front wheel drive and are set to a range of 0mm to 5mm toe out. Setting the toe out as close to 0 (zero) as possible will give the best tyre wear (especially for front wheel drive vehicles) whereas moving further out to the 5mm alignment will increase wear but will also increase steering stability.

I used to travel a lot on the Southwest Highway and had my 2003 Magna setup with 2 to 3mm of toe out. This made the vehicle very predictable and steady on the rougher roads and I lost almost nothing in wearability of the front tyres. It was a much nicer car to drive all round.

Overtaking and Overtaking Lanes.

Many drivers will drive a long at a speed lower than the required speed because this is where they feel safe. For example, with no one in front of them, they will drive at 100 kph in a 110 kph area until they get to an overtaking lane then they speed up to 112 kph. All the vehicles that have been banked up behind them for the last 10 km, 20 km or more, that have been wishing to sit on the 110 limits either can’t over take them or now have to exceed the speed limit to get passed them or be stuck behind them again  until the next over taking lane,  where in the interim they slow again to 100 kph. WHY???

Mostly this is again is caused by a lack of concentration and general consideration of our fellow driver.

If you have been travelling at 100 kph for the last 10 km in a single lane then why speed up in the left-hand lane in an overtaking area only to slow again when the single lane returns? This makes no sense at all, if you want to change your speed for something to do drop to 95 kph and allow others to pass you. You will have no problem sitting on 100 kph after the end of the overtaking lane.

As for simply overtaking, I have seen many times other drivers overtaking in the most dangerous situations.

  1. Near the crest of a hill, crossing double lines or solid line.
  2. Around blind bends, crossing double lines or solid line.
  3. Following way too close to a tall vehicle and just pulling out.
  4. Overtaking as slow as possible, taking their own sweet time to complete the manoeuvre.
  5. Pulling out without checking your mirrors is just as dangerous number 1,2 and 3.

Driving in this manner beggar’s belief, don’t do it.

Every year we are having more and more drivers on our roads, more than 90% have no country road experience. So before overtaking please observe the road ahead and assess if it is safe to do so, then check your mirrors to make sure someone else is not overtaking you as well then indicate before pulling out. If you miss an opportunity don’t stress another chance will come in less time than you think usually less than 5 minutes.

Don’t assume you are the only vehicle on the road, in changes minute by minute.