A rural road is a local road that serves an unincorporated area. These roads are often narrow, winding and sometimes paved in gravel. They are used by drivers who need to get from one place to another.
Unlike motorways, they are not designed for high volumes of traffic and have lower speeds and loadings. They are primarily for local traffic such as cars, buses and light trucks.
Safety considerations for rural roads are similar to those of urban roads but there are some specific challenges. They can be impacted by weather conditions, animal and other road users and have less maintenance than highways or city streets.
Most rural roads have been built on minimally prepared subgrade (see Figures 1 and 2). In some cases, the subgrade may deteriorate over time or develop cracks that are difficult to see.
In the worst cases, the subgrade can become saturated and begin to delaminate or even crumble. The resulting surface problems can result in fatigue cracking and edge depressions.
As a result of roadway construction and use, rural roads fragment the landscape and adversely affect wildlife habitat. They also generate sediment that can harm watersheds supporting beneficial uses.
The fatal accident rate on rural roads is over twice that of urban roads. This is due to a combination of poor roadway design and maintenance.