When you are first learning to drive, the chances are that you will stick to the environment in which you live; this typically means that you only experience a certain type of road, either urban or rural.
There are very significant differences in both urban and rural driving and when you move from one to the other for the first time; it can be a real culture shock. Both have their hazards and can be just as dangerous, but if you’re not used to the terrain, it’s not always obvious where the risks lie.
If you are going to be driving on the roads, it’s absolutely essential that you are comfortable driving in both rural and urban areas because you can never tell when one area will merge into the other. Although you may inevitably have a favourite type of environment, being able to drive safely on the other is imperative if you are going to stay safe.
Here’s a look at some of the differences between rural and urban driving.
When you’re learning to drive, urban roads may seem to be the more intimidating, primarily because they’re teeming with other drivers who often have little patience with learners.
This is certainly one of the risks; you won’t have any space and time to find your feet, metaphorically speaking, behind the wheel of the car. As soon as you’re on the roads, you will have to contend with other drivers and busy traffic conditions, even if you try to pick a quieter time of day.
The road layout can be confusing too; in busy areas you’ll find there’s multiple traffic lights at each junctions, lots of different lanes and traffic instructions and cars merging and splitting off in various directions.
For this reason, it can be helpful to learn to drive in an urban area on roads with which you are familiar; you may never have looked at them through a driver’s eyes before, but you will at least have some idea about the movement of traffic and upcoming signals.
It’s not just the roads which are busy either, you’re likely to find lots of pedestrians too, many of which appear to have little or no regard for road users. This means that you need to be extremely vigilant for pedestrians stepping out, or for pets suddenly running out into the road. The emergency stop may need to be one of the earliest manoeuvres you learn!
Other factors which can be challenging to navigate include a poor road layout, pot holes in the surface, roadworks changing the flow of traffic, railway crossings, speed changes and car parks (drivers suddenly pulling in or out).
With far less traffic on the road, rural driving may seem relatively easy by comparison but it actually has just as many hazards to navigate around, albeit different ones.
Road surfaces can be far less predictable, and can change suddenly and may not be as well looked after as in urban areas. Signals about possible hazards such as sharp bends may be difficult to see or even missing, and the layout of the road could be much more challenging, particularly in reduced visibility, such as when it’s dark.
Sudden obstructions may be much more common, such as livestock in the road or a slow-moving vehicle. These combined with blind road conditions, such as narrow roads with lots of vegetation and tight bends means drivers have to be far more vigilant and ready to perform an emergency stop.
Debris on the road is also more likely to be an issue, and this could block the windscreen, causing an immediate danger. Gravel, dust, mud, dirt may all be present on the roads in much greater quantities than in an urban area.
In rural locations, weather conditions can be more severe and change more quickly. This could mean suddenly being stranded in thick fog, or driving rain or facing a flooded road that was passable just a few minutes before.
If a breakdown or collision occurs, it’s much more difficult to reach help, particularly if you don’t have a mobile signal where you are.
Whether you drive in an urban or rural area, you must never be blasé or dismissive about the dangers you might face even if they don’t seem as obvious or severe as you are used to. It’s equally important to be able to drive in both rural and urban conditions and to have an understanding and healthy respect of the hazards you might encounter whilst on the roads there.