How to Drive on a Gravel Road
Gravel roads can be challenging, even for the most experienced drivers. Read below for tips on how to drive safely on those coarse gravel roads.
Preparation is key
It never hurts to be prepared for an adventurous drive. Be sure to check all your tires and tire pressure beforehand and see if you need to fill up on gas. Some backroads in cottage country, don’t have much cell service, so it’s important to bring a physical map with you in case you get lost and let someone know where you are going. For more preparation assistance visit our Road Safety Tips for Driving to Cottage Country blog post.
Once you turn onto a gravel road from a paved surface, be sure to slow down. As you would with city driving, be sure to drive at a speed which will allow you to easily stop for any hazards on the road. Animals such as deer, bear and moose have been known to cross gravel roads during dusk and dawn. It’s best to watch your speed and drive extra cautiously during those times.
When driving on a gravel or unpaved road, your vehicle may drift slightly and it’s perfectly normal. There will be no need to panic, as long as you keep both hands on the wheel, steer firmly and avoid sudden movements. Be sure not to turn the steering wheel aggressively when you feel your vehicle start to wander.
Leave plenty of space
An ideal rule on a gravel road is to leave six seconds of space behind other vehicles. It can take longer than usual to stop on unpaved roads. Be sure to increase this following distance when the weather is treacherous. It’s also a good idea to leave more space in case there’s too much dust blocking your view of the road or there’s flying debris.
When driving on gravel, it can be sometimes difficult to brake. The Ontario Ministry of Transportation recommends avoiding skidding by driving at a reduced speed and to operate the vehicle’s controls in a smooth and constrained manner. The vehicle’s speed should be maintained at a safe level and turns be made gently. If your vehicle does begin to skid, ease off on the accelerator or brake and on a very slippery surface slip the transmission into neutral if you can. Continue to steer in the direction you wish to go to, but be careful of oversteering. Once you regain control, brake softly and smoothly.
There are many winding roads in cottage country and rural areas. With so many twists and turns, this can often prevent you from seeing oncoming cars or additional hazards. When you are driving and approaching a curve or dip in the road, stay to the right side and slow down.
Preparation and caution can keep you and your passengers’ safe on the gravel roads. Be sure to check the weather conditions before you leave, the state of your vehicle and that you’re covered for car insurance. Safe travels!