Tuesday, July 16, 2024

Iowa Road Conditions (Safe Driving Tips)


Things would be so much simpler if you always drove on a sunny day, on a nicely paved road, with no other motorists. That way, the only thing you need to worry about is yourself.

However, that’s unrealistic.

In Iowa, you will have to drive through so many different road conditions — extreme weather, road structures, gravel and dust, wildlife, etc.

This is why it’s best to know what to do under these circumstances.

And this is why, here, we’re going to give you safe driving tips when you go through these different Iowa road conditions.

So without further ado, let’s get started!

How to Drive Safely in Iowa Road Conditions

Consider it a blessing if you haven’t had to drive through the many possible road conditions you may face in Iowa. But expect to eventually run into one of these at one point or another.

As we say, it’s better to be safe than sorry — knowing what to do can go a long way in keeping you and your passengers safe.

Driving at Night

Why You Need to Be Careful.

According to MoneyGeek, 50% of traffic-related fatalities happen at night.

The number of risks increases when you drive at night. I mean, your vision becomes limited, making it more challenging to see other vehicles or pedestrians on the road, as well as road obstacles.

Plus, you’re more likely to demonstrate drowsy driving (especially if it’s late) and encounter other drivers who aren’t in peak driving conditions.

Oncoming traffic may also affect your ability to see what’s in front of you, especially if their headlights create a glare.

Despite all these, it’s 100% possible to travel safely at night — as long as you practice caution.

How to Drive Safely at Night.

Your headlights are your friends — don’t forget to use them! After all, you can only see clearly what they light up.

In Iowa, you must use your headlights as soon as the sun sets or when you can see less than 500 feet away.

Other than that, keep these things in mind when you know you have to drive in the dark:

  • Keep your headlights clean. Your lights will be less effective if they’re grimy. The same goes for your rearview mirrors, side mirrors, and windshield.
  • Reduce your speed. You might need a longer stopping distance than the space your headlights allow you to see. Traveling slower gives you more time to avoid a potential hazard in front of you.
  • Don’t blind other motorists. Use low-beam lights when you see a vehicle approaching from the other side. The same applies if you’re less than 400 feet behind the car in front. It prevents them from being blinded by your light’s reflection in their mirrors.
  • Prepare for inconsiderate drivers. You might share the road with motorists who don’t bother lowering their beams. If so, avert your gaze if their headlights are blinding. It’s best to focus on the white stripe on the right side of the road — you’ll stay in the correct lane without impairing your vision. It’s also best to slow down when you do this.

Driving Through Gravel

Why You Need to Be Careful.

There are over 65,000 miles of gravel roads in Iowa. Besides the sudden change in road texture, it also brings other dangers.

The most significant hazard is traction. Skidding is more likely to happen since your tires don’t grip the actual road.

Driving over several potholes may also lead to a washboard effect. It may make steering difficult, causing you to lose control of your car.

Besides that, you may also have less visibility, especially on hot days when vehicles kick up dust clouds.

How to Drive Safely on Loose Gravel.

To ensure your safety, practice the following:

  • Reduce your speed. Slowing down is always encouraged, but it’s particularly crucial in areas where a paved road turns into a graveled path. Most accidents happen there, and it’s because vehicles don’t reduce their speed.
  • Don’t make any abrupt maneuvers. Because there’s less traction, you may lose control of your vehicle if you brake hard or yank the steering wheel in a different direction.
  • Don’t panic. Take your foot off the brake if you start skidding or losing control. Try to gently steer your vehicle in the direction you want to go AFTER it has gained back traction.Make use of existing tire tracks. Some roads have markings made by other vehicles. Those give you better traction and are generally safer.

Driving Through Dust

Why You Need to Be Careful.

Another thing to watch out for when driving along Iowa’s rural roads is dust. Traction might not be a problem, but visibility is.

Dust can obstruct your vision, making it difficult to see in all directions. It may even appear blinding if a vehicle from oncoming traffic causes it to billow up in the air.

How to Drive Safely Through Dust.

Two things provide tremendous help when you’re traveling on a dusty road.

  • Turn your headlights on — even during the day. However, use your low beams since these cut through the dust better. Having your lights on will also make you more visible to other motorists, warning them of your presence.
  • Reduce your speed. Since you’re less likely to see your surroundings, going slower is always safer. It’ll give you more time to stop if you suddenly realize there’s a vehicle in front of you.

Driving Over Narrow Bridges and Roads

Why You Need to Be Careful.

As if gravel and dust aren’t enough, Iowa’s rural roads can also become narrow. You may need to cross bridges that don’t provide as much space as a regular road.

Because of the limited space, you won’t have as much freedom to maneuver your vehicle. What’s more, this makes sharing the road challenging and potentially dangerous.

How to Drive Safely Over Narrow Roads and Bridges.

Less space usually requires more precaution. Keep these things in mind when you’re about to drive across a narrow road or bridge:

  • Watch out for warning signs. Heed any warning sign indicating that the road ahead narrows. Start thinking about how you intend to react.
  • Gauge how much space you have. Narrow bridges and roads typically have little to no shoulder. Driving in the middle may be a safer alternative. You may fall into a ditch if too close to the edge.
  • Watch out for large vehicles. Sharing the road with a large motor vehicle may leave too little space — you can’t do your usual driving maneuvers. Stopping before entering the bridge or narrow lane may be a better option.
  • Do not stop in the middle. In situations where you need to pull over, wait until you’ve finished crossing the bridge before doing so. This way, you won’t inadvertently block traffic.

Driving on Steep Hills and Curves

Why You Need to Be Careful.

Hills on rural roads tend to be steeper, the same way curves are typically sharper.

If you’re on a hill, remember that gravity is not your friend in either direction. Traveling upward may cause you to lose traction and slip backward while it pulls you forward on the way down. It may result in you accelerating more than you intended.

Curves, on the other hand, cause blind spots. These make it more likely for you to get into an accident.

How to Drive Safely on Steeps Hills and Curves.

Here is what you should keep in mind when driving on steep hills or sharp curves:

  • Use lower gear. This works better on steep hills. It allows you to maintain your speed as you travel towards the crest. We’re not encouraging you to drive faster, but remember that if you’re too slow, you’ll hold up the traffic.
  • Prepare your brakes. It’s easier to stop going up than down, but make sure you use your handbrake to prevent you from sliding backward. It applies especially if your car doesn’t have hill-hold technology yet.
  • Keep your eyes open. A different challenge surfaces as you approach the crest —  visibility. When you’re driving at night and vehicles from oncoming traffic have their lights on, you’ll see it. However, it may not be possible during the day.
  • Stay in lower gear as you cross to the other side and start going down. This way, your brakes don’t do all the work, preventing brake fade.
  • Don’t attempt to whip around the bends. Slow down — sometimes, driving below the posted speed limit is advisable.
  • Be careful. Avoid veering off your lane as you round the curve, and keep an eye out for oncoming vehicles.

Driving at Railroad Crossings

Why You Need to Be Careful.

You encounter several warning signs when you approach a railroad crossing. However, you may come across a railroad crossing on Iowa’s rural roads that don’t have warning signs.

If you rely on flashing red lights, warning bells, crossing gates, or pavement markings, you might not find them. Drivers who don’t realize they’re approaching a railroad crossing may not take the necessary precautions on time.

How to Drive Safely Through Railroad Crossings.

  • When you see a round yellow sign saying railroad crossing ahead, begin to take safety measures. The same applies when you spot a white X-shaped railroad crossing crossbuck.
  • Begin to slow down and look both ways. If you see a train about to cross, stopping before the tracks may be safer than attempting to cross.

Driving in Uncontrolled Intersections

Why You Need to Be Careful.

Like railroad crossings, some intersections in Iowa’s rural roads don’t have yield and stop signs. It’s up to motorists to approach cautiously. If you don’t, you just might get into an accident.

How to Drive Safely Through Uncontrolled Intersections.

  • The safest thing to do is to act as you would in a regular intersection.
  • Slow down before you get to it and prepare to yield the right-of-way to oncoming traffic.

Driving in Wildlife

Why You Need to Be Careful.

Animals on the road are always a hazard to motorists, but the chances of encountering them are higher on rural roads.

Some may be small, such as eastern squirrels, deer mice, or squirrels, but you may also find foxes and deer on the road. The latter is the most common cause of accidents on Iowa roadways.

How to Drive Safely with Wildlife

You can’t prevent wildlife from going on rural roads, but you can remain safe by doing the following:

  • Be alert. Expect to see animals so it won’t be a surprise when they appear. It’s especially true during sunrise and sunset.
  • Yield the right-of-way. It’s safer to slow down (or even stop) if you see a deer on the road or beside it.

However, there may be instances when a deer jumps out and suddenly crosses, and you won’t have enough time to stop. In these situations, it’s better to hit the animal than swerve. It may put you in the path of oncoming traffic, which is more dangerous.

Not all driving conditions in Iowa are ideal, but there are always ways to make them safe.

So if you find yourself driving under one of these Iowa driving conditions, make sure to follow the safety tips here.

Remember, it’s always best to keep safe.

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