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Authorities Urging Extra Care When Traveling On Gravel Roads

By Staff | Oct 6, 2011

The Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Office is urging all drivers to exercise additional caution as they travel on gravel roads in the region. The Fall harvest season increases the dangers of traveling on all roads in the area, but especially on gravel roads.

At issue is increased farm traffic on the roadways of the area due to the movement of crops from the field and various implements moving from field to field. Semi tractor-trailer rigs, straight trucks, grain carts and large grain wagons are moving the bounty of the harvest from the field to farms and elevators. Combines along with tillage equipment are also moving from one field to another, and the new crop of grain stover bales also presents another challenge to motorists sharing the roadways with these apparatus.

One of the primary causes of accidents on roadways is when vehicles come upon a slow-moving implement or wagons, mis-judge the speed and collide with the slower moving vehicle or implement. The size of some implements can also be a contributing factor to accidents, when motorists do not allow enough clearance when overtaking implements. Another very common roadway accident during the harvest season is when motorists attempt to pass a tractor or other vehicle that makes a left turn into a farm drive or field drive.

Locally, extra concern has been raised over the extremely dry conditions the area is experiencing, and how the lack of moisture is also creating even dustier conditions than usual on gravel roads. When vehicles meet on gravel roads, the resulting dust clouds can often linger and potentially blind the drivers. Excessive speed on a dusty, gravel road with a dust cloud could disorient a driver and lead to the loss of vehicle control, or potentially hide an oncoming vehicle and cause a collision.

Authorities note that because the gravel roads are so dry, the gravel begins to act much like marbles, making sudden stops by vehicles nearly impossible, quite similar to attempting to stop quickly on ice.

“The solution to these hazards is to reduce speed on gravel roads at all times of the day or night,” noted Palo Alto County Sheriff’s Lieutenant Lynn Schultes. “And, it is difficult to always know what is on the other side of a hill. By the time you crest a hill, it may be too late to avoid an oncoming disaster. We all just need to slow down a bit, be cautious, and enjoy the Fall season.”