If you live on a farm in Western Canada,
odds are there is a gravel road going past your driveway. While
gravel makes for a functional road surface, it’s a little hard on
vehicles. Tires that log most of their miles on gravel don’t last as
long as those run over pavement. Paint and windshields also take a
Although that kind of damage is
inevitable, events of last week reminded me that if more drivers
wouldn’t suffer as much abuse as they do. I’m beginning to think it
may be time to add a few lessons on gravel road etiquette to the
provincial driver training curriculum.
A few extra questions on the
Saskatchewan driver’s exam about how to drive on gravel roads
wouldn’t go amiss. I’m thinking of something like this: “How hard
does a rock thrown from the tire of a speeding pickup strike the
windshield of an oncoming vehicle?”
To calculate that, students
would need to use the force = mass x velocity formula. But I
suggest the examiner could accept a more practical answer. Something simple like,
hard enough to ruin it.
In the last few years, stones thrown
from speeding pickup trucks have taken a toll on the windshields of
know I’m not the only one in that boat.
On one occasion, a speeding half ton
pulling an empty flatdeck trailer raced over the crest of a hill
toward me. The trailer was fishtailing wildly. I braked hard to try
and save the windshield in my F-250, but to no avail. The trailer
threw a rock that knocked a fist size chunk off the inner layer of
glass. When I arrived at my destination, I had to brush windshield
fragments off my lap.
Just two weeks after I replaced that
windshield—at my own expense—I met a lifted four-by-four pickup
that had to be travelling about 130 K.P.H. His oversized tires fired
a fastball that struck the bottom edge of the new windshield, which
caused the usual rosebud, But within 20 minutes the rosebud sprouted
a 10-inch crack, making a glass repair impossible. Since then, the
of wounds. Sooner rather than later I’ll have to replace it again.
But if you don’t have a windshield in
front of you, meeting a vehicle that is travelling at high speeds on
a gravel road can be even more nerve racking. This fall I was
bringing my pull-type swather back home hitched behind my
open-station tractor. A large truck went by me without slowing down.
The road had just been gravelled and the surface had a deep layer of
loose stones. The tires flung a hail of rocks past me on both sides
as I covered my face with both arms. Fortunately, none of them hit
Getting back to last week, I was on my
way home in my brand new vehicle, which had less than 400 kilometres
on the odometer. As I came over a rise there it was: another lifted
four-by-four pickup coming toward me. It was under the control of a
driver who appeared to be trying to set a gravel-road speed record.
And he was doing it shortly after the municipality had covered the
road with a lot of loose gravel because freezing rain had left a
layer of ice on the surface.
I was down to less than 40 K.P.H. When
he went past me, but I could see the rock coming. It hit my pristine
windshield squarely in front of my eyes leaving a four-inch circle of
damage, ruining my eight-day-old glass.
The frustrating part of all of this is
drivers could easily help reduce the problem, and keep my glass
repair costs down, by implementing two apparently uncommon practices:
first, apply a little common sense when behind the wheel. And second,
show a little common courtesy to others on the road. The windshields
they save may be their own.