The road surface and its condition is critical when it comes to operating a vehicle safely, yet many people don’t give it much thought.



No matter what sort of vehicle you’re controlling, it’s important to consider the surface your vehicle is travelling on.



Be mindful of any changes in the road surface because the level of grip can change, sometimes dramatically. These changes could be obvious, like going from bitumen to dirt or they could be more subtle like a change in surface texture or colour.



One example is during the early morning on a country road where tree branches often hang over the road. As the sun comes out it dries the road but the shade from the trees keeps some areas damp. If you don’t pick up on the change in surface you could find yourself travelling too fast for the conditions.


A rural road is generally much less consistent than what we expect in the city. It can have various widths and a range of surfaces. You could be on firm bitumen one minute and on loose gravel the next. Because it is not always predictable you need to stay alert.


Clearly a gravel road will offer much less grip than a bitumen road. The car will tend to move around a little because of the loose surface. The only way to deal with this is to tread very carefully and don’t be harsh on the controls. Back off your speed to suit the conditions and if you see that you are about to leave the bitumen section and move onto some gravel you need to reduce your speed well before the surface changes.



The sides of some country roads can also be a trap. Often the shoulders of these roads aren’t as well maintained as we would all like and there can be some very nasty sharp edges and soft shoulders that will pull on your steering.   These sharp edges can damage tyres after which they may suddenly deflate causing handling issues with the vehicle. Being aware of this while cornering is of particular importance.


The fact that the road may also be quite narrow doesn’t help. Sometimes, you need to move off the road slightly in order to allow two on-coming cars to pass each other. If you have to move over be sure to pick your spot and move to the left in a smooth and gentle fashion and then progressively ease back onto the road.


Whether it is city or country driving there are often clues that can give you a warning about what may lie ahead. So keep scanning the road ahead.



Finally, if you are on an undulating piece road, ease off the power a little when approaching the top of crest of a hill. The reason is that you just never know what may greet you on the other side.



Drive Safely – Russell White CARMA Road Safety Ambassador