If you live in a densely populated area, there’s a good chance that your daily commute includes driving on a busy highway. While the hundreds of thousands of miles of highway across the United States are designed to get drivers to their destination in a more direct and efficient route, many major highways are congested, in need of repair, and may increase the likelihood of being in an accident.

Occasionally, drivers decide to take a back road route to get relief from the daily congestion or have been rerouted during construction season. Just like highway travel, an alternate route has its pros and cons, here’s what you should know before taking the scenic route:

Highway Travel

In 1954, President Eisenhower pushed to upgrade the Nation’s highways to increase the safety of motorists, to improve economic conditions, and to free up traffic congestion. As a result, the Interstate system was born and despite the improvements, we are faced with some of the same challenges today, however, there are many pros about highway travel:

  1. Fast and Direct Route:
    Without the option of taking the highway, your daily drive would consist of lots of stops and indirect routes through residential areas. Although much of your current commute may be slowed down by congestion, you would probably spend more time on the road if highways didn’t exist.
  2. Maintained Roads:
    One of the advantages to highway travel is that the roads are often in better condition than other roads (such as residential streets or rural), as long as funding exists to fix dangerous potholes or other hazards.

Some of the downsides to highway travel include traffic congestion and the risk of multiple car accidents and accidents involving driver error, such as distracted driving or aggressive/reckless behavior.

Rural Road Travel

Think about the last time you took a road “less traveled”. Maybe you were re-routed through a small town, took a wrong turn and got lost, or simply chose to take the scenic route. You may have even decided to make a point of taking a back road more often and for good reason, there are a lot of nice things about taking an alternate/rural road. For example, the scenery is often nicer, there’s less congestion, and there’s typically less pressure to drive fast or keep up with traffic. Unfortunately, rural travel isn’t always the best or safest option when traveling, here are some of the cons and things to be aware of:

  1. Dangerous Drivers: Although you can often set your own pace (within legal speed limits) on back roads, it’s important to beware of fellow motorists who are speeding. Additionally, there are higher incidences of drunk driving accidents on rural roads. Drivers may be less responsible on back roads where there’s less patrolling.
  2. Rough Roads: Although highways are often under construction and have their fair share of sections that need fixing, rural/back roads are often in worse condition than highways (partly due to the lack of resources). Such roads may also be more hazardous during inclement weather, therefore, drivers must drive accordingly.

Whether you’re driving on the freeway outside of a metropolis or taking the back road in the country, each type of road has its advantages and disadvantages, leaving it up to you to drive responsibly and pay close attention to the condition of the road and your fellow motorists.