Gravel roads are a part of life in Saskatchewan. They all have 1 thing in common: they can be dangerous.
On average in Saskatchewan, rural municipal and roads on First Nation communities are the scenes of nearly 7,200 crashes each year. These collisions result in more than 1,000 injuries and 32 deaths annually.
Even the best-maintained gravel roads have rough sections and loose gravel that require lower speeds. Gravel roads without posted limits are 80 km/h zones, although it's important to remember that this speed is for ideal conditions only.
Your tires are another important reason to slow down. They have less traction on loose gravel, which can increase your risk of a collision when you accelerate or turn a corner.
To get the most out of your tires, accelerate and brake gradually to avoid skidding. Also try to avoid swerving to miss animals or objects on the road. Your vehicle may slip or even roll over.
Remain calm if your vehicle begins to skid. Take your foot off the accelerator and declutch or shift into neutral. At the same time, look where you want to go and steer in that direction. Once you have regained control of the vehicle, resume driving at a lower speed.
Grab that wheel
Steering in deep gravel requires a steady hand. Grasp the steering wheel firmly and know that your vehicle will wander slightly. It's perfectly normal, since gravel does not allow the precise steering that's possible on pavement.
The important thing is that you don't fight your vehicle's tendency to wander by turning the wheel too much. Over steering at high speeds on a slippery surface is a recipe for a serious collision.
Stay on the beaten path
When driving on gravel, it's a good idea to drive in the tire tracks already on the road. This holds true even when there is only 1 set of tracks in the road's centre.
If you climb a hill or meet a vehicle traveling from the opposite direction, be prepared to slow down and pull over as far to the right as possible. Large trucks or farm implements may even require you to stop.
Be careful when pulling over to the right because you risk slipping into the ditch if your tires go off the packed surface. If you find yourself drifting off the road, don't slam on the brakes. Slow down gradually and then steer back onto the road.
It takes longer to safely stop on gravel roads, and dust can greatly decrease your visibility. Even under the best conditions, it's best to allow at least 6 seconds of following distance on gravel. If the conditions are less than ideal, you need to leave an even bigger gap between your vehicle and the 1 ahead.
Light it up
Whether you're enjoying an afternoon jaunt or making a twilight trip home, your headlights should always be on, especially if you're driving on gravel. They help other drivers see you sooner than they otherwise might, ensuring you and all your precious cargo make it home safely.