SHARE THE LOVE
by Julie Reardon
Country roads should take you home, or if you don’t live here, at least for a pleasant drive. Unfortunately, in the 30 years since I moved from Alexandria to the rural countryside, city problems like road rage, speeding, texting, cell phone usage and just plain careless driving have been exponentially increasing out here, just like inside and around the Beltway. In just the first three weeks of 2018, there have been 3 serious accidents with fatalities in Western Loudoun and Fauquier counties, including the death of a popular young veterinarian.
We don’t mind sharing our scenic roads, and while (most of the time) we have much less traffic than the more densely populated suburbs, there are some unique hazards that might catch you by surprise—and especially if you’re texting or using your cell phone. As a side note—there are many areas out here with little to no reception. Rather than have your call get dropped or become inaudible, wait until you can pull over in an area with good reception. While we may have fewer cars and trucks on the road, we have lots of wild animals, including deer. A lot of them – especially at certain times of the year. October and November are the worst, since deer are in rut, on the move and tend to be oblivious to the dangers of moving vehicles. And, unfortunately, that time of year is when the fall landscape is at its most colorful and when people love to sight see, so more drivers means more accidents.
There are also horses and cattle, and while they mostly stay within the confines of their pastures, they do occasionally escape when a limb or tree falls on a fence, or even, a car misjudges a turn and takes down a section. Loose livestock is not a common occurrence, but the trucks and trailers that transport them are very common out here where there are lots of horses and horse events, especially on weekends. Livestock hauling poses a unique problem. The rigs don’t look as imposing as a big semi-tractor trailer, but make no mistake, they have the same blind spots and the same extended distances needed to brake. Like those behemoths, they cannot stop on a dime and indeed, might take ten times the distance of a car to come to a full stop. Even an SUV towing a horse trailer takes five times the distance of a passenger car to stop; the bigger rigs take two or more times that distance. Cut one off because you passed where you shouldn’t and have to slam on the brakes, and you could cause a serious accident that would have been avoided by waiting a few minutes until you reached a safe area to pass.
We share our roads with tractors and other slow moving farm equipment, they are identified by Farm Use tags or bright orange triangles and they deserve your respect since they are making a living and indeed, represent a very small portion of those that use our roads. Cyclists are another hazard of narrow, winding and scenic roads; they have the right to use them and while most riders are respectful of vehicle traffic, sometimes large groups of them are blissfully unaware of approaching traffic. Everyone wants to enjoy the beautiful scenery here; and part of the charm is the hills and blind curves that open to unexpected splendor of scenic pastoral and mountain views. But even those who drive the roads daily never know what’s beyond the next hill or curve. When in doubt, slow down.
Gravel roads deserve respect, too. Despite the dirt, dust and dings, many people that live on them love them because it’s almost impossible to drive really fast on them. If you don’t want your car to get dirty, or you’re in a hurry, avoid them. I shouldn’t have to say it, but don’t text and drive, and don’t use a cell phone without the hands free feature; it’s not only against the law statewide, it’s just plain stupid. Plus, you might miss things like the friendly wave letting you pass, the distant view of a field of riders on a fox hunt, or the bumper sticker on the tractor that reads, zero to 60… in 15 minutes.