Watch out for dangerous roads, you can find them in some of the most dangerous and inhospitable places. Some roads are dangerous due to the lack of signs or guardrails. These type of dangers can be prevented if we all pitch in and make these issues known…
The More Common Dangerous Roads
If you have traveled some or even just a veteran driver, I am sure you have seen areas that are marked. Don’t take these places lightly as it most likely took an accident or fatality to get those signs put up. Sadly, many railroad crossing gates and lights don’t get installed until after one or two accidents or fatalities. Something to think about next you are going over a railroad track that doesn’t have nothing more than a X-Cross warning sign.
Man has the will to cut roads almost anywhere to cut reduce travel time. Some of these road locations are questionable. There are many “Blind Hill”, “Slick Road”, “Blind Turn”, “Falling Rock” and even more warning signs. All of these type warning signs should be taken very seriously. In some ways, we see them so much, we ignore them and the potential dangers. Many people ignore the “Blind Hill” sign and it is the more inexperienced drivers that pay. The more newbie drivers don’t quite grasp that not only can you not see over the hill, but all the variables that can be waiting on the other side.
It is important to pay attention to all road signs. Some may appear stupid to some people but believe me, there are reasons for these signs. I am sure you have traveled on some roads that the speed limit is seemingly marked too low. Well there are reasons for this that may not be obvious. Some roads are marked at slower speeds due to specific weather conditions. Other roads may have a heavy amount of pedestrians at certain times. Warning signs usually get put up due to known conditions or conditions that get reported from accidents. In other words, something has happened there before, so pay close attention.
Those Signs Aren’t So Stupid After All
Talking about those signs that appear to have no purpose or are just stupid, let me tell you how signs could have helped me. One night a friend and I were out just cruising around in our little suburban area. We often just went for drives just to listen to the radio or just talk. So it was late, and we thought we would check out some roads we never drove down before. We turned down this one road that had no signs of any kind.
Our speed was around 30mph, not thinking at all about being on a dangerous road. It wasn’t that the road was dangerous, but the outcome could have killed people. It was in the middle of the night, completely dark with no street lights, the next thing you know, we are out of road. Luckily I got the brakes on about 50 feet left of pavement before we slid into someone’s yard. We stopped with my bumper just touching the front porch of these people’s house. If we had been going any faster or not paying attention, we would have gone right through their hose and killed someone.
If the county had at least put up a sign that the road was a “Dead End” or “No Through Traffic”, we would have been alert to coming to an end. There are many of those “Dead End” signs on roads and I have heard people say those type of signs are necessary, but from personal experience, they are. The dangerous part from my story, the road and that yard were the exact same level. No curb or anything to indicate you were leaving the road.
Signs That Don’t Do Their Job
Here I go again with another story, but this one shows laziness on the DOT’s part. Another friend and I were doing the same cruising thing really late one night. This time we decided to drive out of state and just see where the road would take us. We ended up in Hazard County Kentucky, Hazard Co might have been a warning in itself. It was 3 or 4 in the morning and we both were tired. Going down this nice big empty four lane highway, my friend kind of mumbles something. “Caution, Road Dead Ends Into Water In 500 Feet”.
So I kept driving and then started to think about what he said. I asked, “why did you say that”. He replied that there was a little sign on the side of the road that said that. Again, no street lights and it was black if we were in outer space. The next thing I know, there is an entire river going across the road. We were lucky and I got the car stopped just as the water was going over the top the hood. We got pulled out but scary none the less.
If the DOT had placed a bigger sign out and actually more than one indicating we were running out of road, that wouldn’t have happened. Actually if they had placed reflective barriers at the end of the road would have helped even more. To this day, we have no idea why you would build a highway that runs right level into a river. Warning signs are a must, just like having the lines on the road. Many people have dropped their cars off the edge of the road when it lacked having the lines painted on it.
Other Dangerous Roads Conditions
Sometimes even when there are warning signs, people still don’t grasp the real danger in what it is warning you about. There are roads that are just marked slippery but not explaining what makes it slippery. Your first thought would be the road is slick when it rains and most likely that is a logical conclusion. However, if the road is slick because of excessive oil, then that needs to be marked as well. Most roads are convex, meaning that they are higher in the center and lower on the sides. This is to allow rain water to run off the road to avoid hydroplaning.
Here is a real danger to watch for. A road that is not convex, that runs along side of a railroad track and in the middle of a hard rain down-pour. What you have in this condition is a pool of oily water. The excess water will start your car hydroplaning and the oil just makes traction even less. If you live in areas that have these kind of conditions, it would be best to get tires that have directional tread and softer compound. Softer compound means less mileage but better gripping to the road.
Another situation that isn’t so much a dangerous road condition but a desperate need for warning signs. In my motorcycle travels. I have ridden many country back-roads, so I have seen some crazy things. One of which is where a road takes an excessive sharp turn, however in the turn, is a paved driveway. This can be seriously confusing, and I have seen cars gone off the road in this situation. If your speed is too high or just not paying attention, you can again run into someones house.
Dangerous For Motorcycles
As I mention, I have many miles racked on on a motorcycle. In my travels I have run across situations that signs were really needed or a redesign needed to be considered. On a trip across I-10, from Florida to Texas, there are some bridges in Alabama and Mississippi that have grates at the peak of the bridges. These grates basically connect the tow halves of the bridge. This allows certain ground shifting a movement that won’t crack the road at the top of the bridge.
The dangerous part of this grate is that it is made of 4 inch steel runners with about 3 inch gaps. This means you have to run your tire on top of a 4 inch wide strip for about 150 feet. If you slip up, you can get your tire stuck down in between the runners. Or at worst, you could ride in the gaps letting them steer your bike which more than likely cause you to lose balance. Now this was back around 1990, so that may have been fixed since then. Although I can say it was scary and there were like four of these bridges made that way.
Railroad tracks running skewed across the road are also dangerous for motorcycles, especially if wet. Motorcycle tires running on steel just don’t mix well when it comes to traction. If you have ever read the motorcycle rider handbook to get your bike license, that is one of the things they go over. It shows to never run across the tracks at an angle. You should always do your best to ride perpendicular over the tracks.
Dangers To Watch For And Should Be Reported
The United States have pretty good roads or at least all the safety’s put into place. There are many roads in other countries that can cause you nightmares to drive over. However there are some roads here in the US that still need attention. In my travels both on the motorcycle and the car, I have run across many road that lacked guardrails and needed signs. I have been on a few back-roads that the road tilted with the slope of the land. The edge of the road was a 40ft drop-off and there was no guardrail to keep you from going over. There were also no signs to indicate any dangers. To make it worse, this one road was covered with forest and the road was always moist with moss on it. Bad for a guy on a bike.
Roads that are in river or lake areas, or in higher elevations are ones you need to be the most cautious with. If the area is more old country and back-road type in nature, there is a good possibility that signs and guardrails are not used. It is important to all that when you run across road conditions like these, to report it to your state department of transportation. It is terrible to let someone get hurt or die before something like this has been flagged. Unfortunately as mentioned, sometimes they won’t do anything on these safety issues, until someone or enough people have been hurt.
To view or report road conditions along with weather conditions, contact United States Road Conditions
View or access all 50 States DOT alphabetically click HERE
For the US Department of Transportation, click HERE