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Stayin’ Safe: What’s Mine Is Yours

Eric TrowJuly 06, 2016
Where one lane ends and another begins is up for interpretation on unmarked back roads like this one. Anticipate oncoming drivers using the middle of the road.

Where one lane ends and another begins is up for interpretation on unmarked back roads like this one. Anticipate oncoming drivers using the middle of the road.

If you’re like me, your favorite roads are the lesser-known gems that wind through the backcountry, away from traffic and civilization. While those wonderful rural roads can offer up a relaxing ride, they can also present their own set of threats, especially the “lane-and-a-half” variety with no lane markings. On these stretches, “sharing the road” can suddenly mean sharing the same space. Quiet back roads are attractive because we expect them to have little or no traffic. But keep in mind that local drivers have that same expectation. Driving these roads daily, they rarely encounter other vehicles on a typical drive. As a result, they’re often inclined to use more of the road, especially on curves. Without a painted line to define lanes, what’s ours is often claimed as theirs, creating a no-man’s land in the middle portion of an already narrow roadway.

The typical cornering strategy calls us to establish an outside line to improve the view around a bend. But an unmarked, narrow back road with limited sight distance calls for a compromise. Think of your lane as less than your half of the pavement. For a right hand bend, establish a position that doesn’t extend wider than the middle of your lane in anticipation of an oncoming vehicle partly on your side of the road. Why not just move toward the inside of the lane? Vehicles tend to drop wheels off the inside edge, kicking dirt, gravel and other debris onto the adjacent road surface. For a left hand bend, position yourself toward the outside of the curve, just in case that wide tractor or truck with a trailer appears suddenly and is taking a wide approach that includes part of your lane. Remember, without road markings, what’s mine is yours. And theirs.

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