Driving in Alberta: A Rural Driver Profile

AMA member Andrea Milligan says there are some key differences between driving in the city and driving in rural areas like the Peace River region. “The three-second following distance doesn’t necessarily apply because there’s no one there,” she jokes. It’s a lighthearted, yet serious, comment that highlights the increased risk of highway driving.

Dangers on the Road

About 68% of fatal collisions in Alberta occur on rural roads, a statistic Milligan knows all too well. It doesn’t matter if there are other vehicles on the road, there are still hazards. “I’ve had friends killed in wildlife collisions. It’s a fact of life for those of us who drive out here,” she says. “You have to be just as attentive on rural roads as you are when driving in the city.” Constantly, Milligan scans the road and shoulders for animals. “I don’t often drive without seeing something – deer, moose, coyotes, even bears on the side of the road.”

Speed & Other Factors

Naturally, rural driving presents an increased risk of serious injury in a collision due to the high speeds at which vehicles are travelling. Wildlife, driver fatigue, merging and lane changing are other hazards to be mindful of. “I see a lot of drivers not merging properly, not building up speed so they can safely merge onto the highway.” An even worse scenario is stopping at the end of the on-ramp. Not only does the stopped motorist have to get up to speed with less room, but so do the other vehicles stopped behind.

Rest & Responsibility

While Milligan can’t control other motorists or wildlife, she can control her own behavior. She avoids driving when she’s tired. Driving while fatigued slows down your reaction time, decreases awareness and impairs judgment. Often, she has to drive five hours one-way to Edmonton for early morning medical appointments. If she finds herself getting tired, she pulls over at a rest area and takes a nap until she’s rested.

In town, there are different things to pay attention to, similar to driving in a larger urban centre. On a regular basis she sees motorists blow through playground zones, cars rolling through stop signs and drivers not wearing seatbelts. “Rural drivers are sometimes a bit more relaxed because there’s less traffic around, but that shouldn’t make a difference.” Drivers should obey the rules and drive safely no matter where they are.

Read more tips for safe driving in rural areas

-By Justin Bell

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