Your Reading List

Gravel road etiquette

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

exercised a little common sense on the road, our trucks and cars
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

my vehicles. Even with insurance, it has cost me a lot of money. I
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

battered windshield on the F-250 has amassed an impressive collection
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.


About the author


Scott Garvey

Scott Garvey is a freelance writer and video producer. He is also the former machinery editor at Grainews.



Stories from our other publications