Driving on country roads

Contents

Positioning

Under normal daylight conditions, you should position your car on the right-hand side of the lane you are driving in. This increases visibility for drivers in vehicles behind you and makes it easier for them to overtake you.

In darkness or in poor visibility, you should normally position the car closer to the middle of the carriageway – on the left-hand side of the lane. This reduces the risk of hitting something or someone on the side of the road. It also gives you a little more time and space to act if, for example, a deer runs across the road in front of your car.

If a road has several lanes in the same direction and you are driving in a lane that does not adjoin the roadside, you do not have to position the car closer to the middle of the carriageway.


In daylight you should normally position the car on the right-hand side of the lane

Ruts

When it is raining you should avoid driving in the ruts that are often worn into country roads. Ruts prevent rainwater from flowing to the side of the road. Rainwater trapped in ruts is a common contributing factor to aquaplaning crashes.

Following distance

One of the most common types of accidents are rear-end collisions, which are when a vehicle hits another vehicle from behind. Usually, rear-end collisions occur when a vehicle is travelling too close to the vehicle in front. These accidents often result in severe whiplash injuries.


You must always maintain a safe distance to the vehicle in front

You must always adapt your speed and distance to the vehicle in front according to visibility, road surface conditions and general traffic conditions. The driver in the vehicle in front must be able to brake hard at any time without any risk of you hitting their vehicle from behind.

The fact that your car slid on a slippery road is never a valid excuse if you have caused an accident. If this were to happen, you did not properly adapt your speed according to the road surface conditions.

To make sure that you maintain an appropriate distance to the vehicle in front of you, there are two rules of thumb that you can use.

The three-second rule

The three-second rule means that it should take you three seconds to reach the point where the vehicle in front of you was when you started counting.

This is how you do it: pick a clear reference point, such as a verge marker or the shadow of a bridge above the road. When the vehicle in front of you passes the reference point, you start counting: "1001", "1002", "1003". If you reach the reference point yourself before you have counted to "1003" you are driving too close to the vehicle in front of you.


The three-second rule can help you to maintain a safe distance to the vehicle in front

The same distance in metres as your speed in km/h

Because the stopping distance in metres – in good road surface conditions – is lower than the speed in km/h, the second rule of thumb is to drive at least as many metres behind the vehicle in front of you as your speed in km/h.

For example, if you drive at 90 km/h you should drive at least 90 metres behind the vehicle in front of you. At 90 km/h the stopping distance at ideal conditions is 67.5 metres, which gives you a margin of 22.5 metres.

Using verge markers

To figure out how many metres it is to the vehicle in front of you, you can use the distance between verge markers. On country roads, it is 50 metres between verge markers and on motorways, it is 100 metres between verge markers. In some curves, however, the distance is only 25 metres.

If you drive at 90 km/h on a straight country road, there should be at least three verge markers (two sectors) between you and the vehicle in front, as this means that you are driving at least 100 metres behind it.


Use verge markers to help you assess the distance to the vehicle in front

These rules of thumb only apply if visibility and road surface conditions are good and if your car is in good condition. If you are driving a larger vehicle or towing a trailer, or if conditions are anything but ideal you need to increase your following distance even more.

Road markings

A road's lanes are normally separated by different road markings that inform about certain rules which apply on the road. Road markings often occur in different combinations. The most common road markings are: centre line, warning line and solid line.

Centre line

This type of centre line is used outside of densely built-up areas. The line may be crossed, but keep in mind that oncoming traffic may occur on the other side.

The 1:3 ratio between lines and spaces (the spaces are three times as long as the lines) indicates that a speed limit of at least 70 km/h applies – unless otherwise stated.

Centre line (densely built-up areas)

This type of centre line is used in densely built-up areas. The line may be crossed, but keep in mind that oncoming traffic may occur on the other side.

The 1:1 ratio between lines and spaces (the spaces are as long as the lines) indicates that a speed limit of 50 km/h or lower applies – unless otherwise stated.

Warning line

A warning line warns of an obscured view, and sometimes of a solid line ahead. The line may be crossed, but it is not considered appropriate.

The 3:1 ratio between lines and spaces (the lines are three times as long as the spaces) indicates that it is a warning line.

Solid line

A solid line indicates that it is prohibited for all road users to cross the line.

Solid lines are used when, for road safety reasons, it is not permitted to travel to the oncoming lane, change lanes or drive on the hard shoulder (the road's edge line can also be solid).

However, in some exceptional cases, it is permitted to cross a solid line.

Centre line and solid line

This combination means that road users travelling in the lane with the solid line are prohibited from crossing the line.

Road users travelling in the other driving direction, however, are permitted to cross the line, but it is not recommended.

Warning line and solid line

This combination means that road users travelling in the lane with the solid line are prohibited from crossing the line.

Road users travelling in the other driving direction, however, are permitted to cross the line, but it is not considered appropriate.

Double sold line

A double solid line means that it is prohibited for all road users to cross the line.

Reversible lane

A reversible lane is a lane whose direction of travel is determined by traffic signals. This means that the direction of travel can change on roads with reversible lanes. Traffic flow and the time of day usually determine in which direction traffic is currently allowed to proceed.

Clarification on lanes

A lane is a part of a roadway indicated by longitudinal road markings or, if road markings do not exist, is sufficiently wide for a four-wheeled vehicle.

If there is room for two four-wheeled vehicles to drive next to each other then there do not have to be any longitudinal road markings (for example, a centre line) in order for the roadway to be considered as having two lanes.

Exceptions

In the following cases, you are permitted to cross a solid line or an obstruction marking with great care:

  1. In order to pass an obstacle on the road.
  2. If there is otherwise not enough space in a junction for your vehicle.
  3. If it is needed to get to or from a property or equivalent.
  4. If there is a dashed line immediately to the right of the solid line.

Verge markers

On many country roads, and on all motorways and clearways, verge markers mark out the road's edges to make it easier for drivers to see and follow the road. All verge markers are equipped with reflectors. The reflectors are normally white, but before and after junctions, bus stops and other exits the reflectors are orange.


Orange reflectors indicate that a vehicle may enter the road from the side

On the left side of the road, the reflectors are shaped like two dots and on the right side they are shaped like a rectangle. On motorways, however, the left-hand verge markers are equipped with rectangular reflectors as well.

On country roads, the distance between verge markers is 50 metres. On motorways, the distance is 100 metres. In some curves, however, the distance between markers is only 25 metres.

The hard shoulder

Many country roads have a hard shoulder which, under special circumstances, may be used temporarily. The hard shoulder is a safety area which is primarily intended for cyclists, moped riders, pedestrians, tractors and other slow-moving vehicles.

When passing an unprotected road user travelling on the hard shoulder you must leave plenty of sideways clearance, without driving too close to the oncoming lane, and maintain a suitable speed.

It is permitted – but not a requirement – to use the hard shoulder for shorter distances to let faster vehicles overtake you and during the last stretch before turning right into another road.


It is usually allowed to use the hard shoulder during the last stretch before turning right

Do not use the hard shoulder in darkness or when visibility is reduced, as there may be unseen obstacles or unprotected road users there. Do not use the hard shoulder before right-hand turns, hilltops or other places where your view is obscured either.

Unless you are turning right, you should also avoid using the hard shoulder before junctions. This is to avoid confusing drivers who are about to enter the junction. They might believe that your position indicates that you are about to turn right, meaning they may drive out in front of you.

When returning to the carriageway from the hard shoulder the exit rule applies. This means that you must give way to all traffic, including vehicles coming from behind, to oncoming vehicles and also those in the lane you are returning to.

If the road's edge line is solid you are not permitted to cross it to enter the hard shoulder, other than in certain exceptional cases.

You are not allowed to drive a car on the hard shoulder if the edge line is solid. It is, however, permitted to do the following:


If the edge line is solid, you are normally not allowed to cross it or drive a car on the har shoulder

Stopping and parking

When driving on country roads, it is very important that you stop and park in a correct and safe manner, as the high speeds encountered entail great risks.

All parking rules are based on two simple main principles. You must not stop or park so that you:

General parking rules

Parking is prohibited on priority roads. When driving on a priority road you are only permitted to park in marked parking spaces.


The road in the picture is a priority road, which means that parking is prohibited

Outside of densely built-up areas you are normally only permitted to park on the right-hand side of the road in the direction of travel. Whenever possible, you should always stop or park outside of the carriageway.

If you park or stop on a road with poor visibility or insufficient lighting, you must turn on your parking lights, so that other road users are able to see your car.

Emergency stop

If you are forced to make an emergency stop in a dangerous place, you should stop as far onto the hard shoulder as possible. If there is no hard shoulder, you should stop in the most suitable place. Do everything you can to not stop in the middle of the road, where your car poses a danger to traffic from behind.

If you are forced to make an emergency stop in a place where stopping or parking is prohibited you must turn on the hazard warning lights. If you are on a road with poor visibility or insufficient lighting, you must switch on the parking lights as well.

On roads where the speed limit is 60 km/h or higher you must also put out a warning triangle. All cars must be equipped with at least one warning triangle.


In the event of an emergency stop, you warn other road users by turning on your hazard warning lights and putting out one or several warning triangles

Usually, you should place the warning triangle 50-100 metres behind the car. However, if your car is obscured by a sharp turn or a hilltop, you must place the warning triangle at least 100 metres behind the car, before the turn or hill begins.

If the turn or slope is long, you may need to put out the warning triangle more than 100 metres behind the car.

If possible, you should also put out a second warning triangle in the oncoming lane.

If you are forced to make an emergency stop in a place where stopping or parking is prohibited you must move your car as soon as possible.

Parking prohibitions

Where parking is prohibited, you must never park and may only stop to load or unload goods or to allow a passenger to get in or out of the car. Stopping is also allowed when it is necessary to avoid danger or if traffic conditions so require.

If you stop for any other reason, your car is considered as being parked. You are not allowed, for example, to stop where parking is prohibited to look at a map or stretch your legs.

It is prohibited to park:


No parking

Stopping prohibitions

Where stopping is prohibited, you must never stop unless it is necessary to avoid danger or if traffic conditions so require.

For example, stopping is allowed where parking and stopping is usually prohibited if there is a deer in the middle of the road, or if there is a bridge opening.

It is prohibited to stop:


No stopping or parking

Turning around

There are no general prohibitions on turning around or reversing on country roads or priority roads. However, it is only allowed if you can perform the manoeuvre without endangering or obstructing other road users.

This means that you are allowed to stop on a country road or priority road – as long as the road is free of traffic, and it is safe to do so – and reverse onto a smaller road to turn around.

However, a safer option would be to turn into the smaller road instead and then turn around in a suitable place.


You may turn around and reverse on country roads, if you can do so without endangering or obstructing other road users

U-turns

Making a "U-turn" (turning 180 degrees, like an upside-down U) is another way to turn around. It is also only allowed when you can perform the manoeuvre without endangering or obstructing other road users, and provided that you do not cross a solid line. Always avoid U-turns if your view is obscured or if the road is very narrow.

You must not make a U-turn if:

On motorways and clearways, it is prohibited to turn around, reverse and make U-turns.

Priority roads

When driving on country roads you often travel on priority roads. A priority road is a road whose users are to be given priority by those on connecting and intersecting roads. Road users that are about to enter the priority road are informed of their duty to give way by road signs and, in most cases, road markings.

On priority roads there is usually a yellow rhombus-shaped road sign posted after each junction, marking the road as a priority road.

There is a general parking prohibition on priority roads, which means that you are only allowed to park in marked parking spaces. There is, however, no general stopping prohibition on priority roads, which means that you are allowed to stop to load or unload goods or to allow a passenger to get in or out of the car.


The yellow rhombus-shaped road sign indicates a priority road

If you drive on a priority road and arrive at a junction where you are going to turn to follow the priority road, road users on connecting roads still have a duty to give way, and you must still turn on your indicators to show that you are about to turn.

A cancellation sign always marks the end of a priority road. When the road is no longer a priority road, the priority to the right rule applies, unless otherwise stated.


End of priority road

Direction of priority road at junctions

Sometimes the additional panel Direction of priority road at junction is used at junctions where roads that are not priority roads connect to a priority road, in order to clarify what rules apply. The panel indicates which connecting roads have a duty to give way at the junction.

The panel shows a stylized version of the upcoming junction, where you come from below and the road that does not have a duty to give way is marked with a thicker line than the other roads.


This panel indicates that road users on the connecting roads have a duty to give way at the junction


This panel indicates that you have a duty to give way at the junction

When driving on a priority road, the panel is used as an additional panel below the Priority road sign. When you are not driving on a priority road, the panel is used as an additional panel below the road sign Give way or Stop.

Private roads

If you turn onto a road featuring a yellow sign with black text and a red arrow you know that the road is private. This means that the road's standard might be poor and that there are few or no road signs. Therefore, you should maintain an appropriate speed and be prepared to slow down or stop.


Private road

Even if you perceive the road as free of traffic, you must always be prepared for oncoming vehicles. If the road is narrow and the view is obscured – for example, before curves, sharp turns and hilltops – it is very important to reduce your speed and keep to the right.

Note that the priority to the right rule applies at junctions with private roads, if no road sign indicates otherwise.


The standard of private roads is often very low

Level crossings

Level crossings (also called railway crossings) are common on country roads. When you pass one, it is very important that you know what rules apply.

A train at high speed has a braking distance of 600-1,500 metres, which means that the train driver has no chance of stopping the train if a vehicle passes the level crossing at the wrong time. You therefore bear the full responsibility for ensuring that the passage is safe.


A train at high speed has a braking distance of 600-1.500 metres

As you approach a level crossing, a warning sign notifies you of the type of level crossing you are approaching. Usually, there are also three yellow distance signs which indicate the distance to the level crossing in thirds. The distance sign furthest from the level crossing has three red lines and the distance sign closest to the level crossing has one red line.

If there is a Stop sign before the level crossing, you should stop at the stop line or, if there is no stop line, just before entering the track area.

Road signs at level crossings

Level crossing with gates

Warns that the road crosses a railroad track with gates.

Level crossing without gates

Warns that the road crosses a railroad track without gates.

Distance to level crossing

Indicate the distance to the level crossing in thirds. The distance sign you encounter first, furthest from the level crossing, is the one with three lines.

Cross sign (one track)

Indicates a junction with a railway or tramway line with one track. The device is posted immediately prior to the level crossing.

Cross sign (several tracks)

Indicates a junction with a railway or tramway line with several tracks. The device is posted immediately prior to the level crossing.

Level crossing marker

This device is sometimes used to make level crossings easier to detect. Where they are used, they are usually posted to the right, to the left and above the level crossing.

Safety devices

All level crossings are marked with a cross sign. If that is the only safety device in place the junction is an unsupervised level crossing. You must only pass this type of level crossing when you have ensured that no train is approaching.

If the level crossing also is equipped with gates and/or light and sound signals, the junction is a supervised level crossing. You must only pass this type of level crossing when the gates are raised, the signals indicate that you are allowed to proceed and you have ensured that no train is approaching.

Light signals at level crossings

Red flashing lights

A red flashing light always means stop. You must not pass the stop line or, if there is no stop line, the signal before the light has turned off.

White flashing lights

A white flashing light indirectly means that the crossing may be passed. However, the signal does not have the same meaning as green – you must pass with caution as trains might pass despite the signal.

Regardless of what type of safety device a level crossing is equipped with, you should never rely on it blindly – you must always check for approaching trains before passing the level crossing. Always look both left and right when checking.


Always check for approaching trains before passing a railroad or tramway track

Once you have made sure that no train is approaching, you should change down to a low gear and quickly pass the level crossing. By changing down, the risk of stalling is reduced while the car's acceleration power increases.

If you were to get stuck between the gates you should run through them, they are designed to give way.

Breakdown on a level crossing

If you cannot move the car, you must immediately contact the police.

Important rules

This means that you are allowed to overtake at level crossings with gates or traffic lights with red, green and yellow signals. However, given the potential risks, you should avoid overtaking at level crossings.


You must never run through red lights at level crossings