|The Hazards of Driving Unknown Roads|
|Written by Kobus on March 20, 2011|
Road conditions and obstacles in underdeveloped countries are frustrating, to say the least. Drivers accustomed to U.S. or European roads can find many situations terrifyingly dangerous.
Below are a few pointers to help you avoid common driving hazards, learned from our experience of driving tens of thousands of miles in foreign countries.
Driving at Night
The best advice for driving on unknown roads is to avoid driving at night, at all costs. Roads probably aren’t lit, and the normal dangers of driving during the day are exponentially greater. Obstacles like pot holes, speed bumps, missing manhole covers and ice are much more difficult to spot. Street signs all but disappear. Highway lanes merge abruptly and bridges narrow to a single lane without warning. Telephone poles are set several feet into the road and trees sprout from the pavement.
Pedestrians and Animals
Rural and urban roads that run through town are often the center of activity. They are usually the only way to get from one end of town to the other. Many do not have the luxury of sidewalks or large shoulders. Buildings are located close to the road and pedestrians and animals have no choice but to share the road with motorized vehicles.
Speed bumps, speed humps, rumble strips or topes, call them what you will. They are the cheapest and most convenient way to ensure drivers do not exceed the speed limit.
The most common road hazards encountered are potholes. Potholes are only easy to spot in ideal weather conditions. When it is raining, what looks like a puddle may actually be a hole big enough to swallow a wheel.
Study road signs before you enter a country and make sure you know the language equivalent of important signs, like “Do Not Enter” or “Stop”. In most countries, signs will be less prevalent than you’re used to. They may also be difficult to read at night, lacking a reflective coating.
Pay attention to speed limits and don’t assume there will be a sign. Ask police or other locals for general guidelines for speed limits on highways, cities and back roads. Speed limits can change quickly without notice, frequently as a highway enters town. Police love to camp in these areas, issuing tickets to anyone who doesn’t slow fast enough.
Below is a quick breakdown of how much time you have to think and react to an obstacle on the road:
Thinking distance is the same as the traveling speed in feet e.g. 30 mph = 30 ft. thinking distance, 60 mph = 60ft thinking distance.
Right or Left side Drive
When driving in Australia you will notice signs that say “DRIVE ON LEFT in Australia” this is not meant as a joke. Lots of people die just because they forget what side of the road to be on.