Did you know that 60% of all road fatalities occur on country roads and lanes? According to Think! this makes them the most dangerous type of road to travel on. The reason for this includes the mix of bends, blind spots, and unexpected hazards that can appear on these roads, as well as drivers travelling at a speed that is too fast for their surroundings.
Statistics from road safety charity Brake show that, per mile travelled on country lanes, cyclists are three times more likely to be killed and motorcyclists and car occupants are two times more likely to be killed than those who travel on urban roads and motorways.
So what can you do to drive safely on country roads?
Firstly, and the most obvious one, is to not exceed the speed limit. Brake explains how speed is a big factor in road crashes on country lanes, with a study showing how just a 10% increase in average speed could result in a 30% increase in serious and fatal crashes.
If the road you are travelling along states that you can do up to the national speed limit, this doesn’t mean you should necessarily drive at full speed along the whole road. GEM Motoring Assist advises you to drive at a speed whereby you are “able to stop in the distance you can see to be clear ahead”, and on narrow roads where there is no central line you should be able to stop in half the distance you can see to be clear ahead.
Think! also advises you to read the road ahead carefully, so that you can slow down for corners, look out for blind summits, concealed entrances, cyclists, walkers and horse riders etc. When passing vulnerable road users, such as cyclists and horse riders, always pass slow and wide. For horses in particular, make sure you turn music down to not startle them. Once you have overtaken, do not rev your car loudly or quickly to gain your speed again; this too could scare the horse.
Verges, hedgerows and trees can all block your view and stop you from seeing a hazard ahead of you. This is why keeping to a constant steady speed will not only save wear and tear on your car, but will give you the time you need to read the road ahead more clearly, and enable your brain to process any unexpected situations better.
There is the potential for many situations on country roads. For example, there could be a broken down car around the bend, you may have to overtake a horse rider, or perhaps encounter some sheep or other wildlife that have escaped from the neighbouring field. If a driver is travelling too fast when these circumstances occur then, they may not have enough time to think about their reaction and inevitably increase the likelihood of an accident.
Slow moving vehicles
Whilst travelling along a country road you may encounter a slow moving vehicle, such as a tractor or horse box, which you might want to overtake to carry on with your journey.
However, Brake states that “overtaking on single carriageway roads is one of the most dangerous manoeuvres drivers can perform – and is usually unnecessary.”
Think! therefore advises you to stay patient, and suggests you do not overtake the vehicle. Generally these roads are not very wide, and trying to anticipate whether or not to overtake can become hazardous. Due to the bends in the road it’s difficult to be 100% certain that it is safe to overtake.
Looking for clues
Even if you are familiar with a country road, you shouldn’t become complacent with your knowledge of the road – as this itself can become dangerous. You may know the road, but the driving conditions and surroundings can change.
Below are some clues to look out for:
- Keep an eye on the road for an indication of what could be ahead. For example, mud on the road could indicate that there is a tractor around the corner, or manure on the road to could mean that a horse is around the corner.
- If you read a sign saying there is a concealed entrance ahead then always expect a vehicle to be waiting to come out of the entrance or a car waiting to turn in, so that you’re prepared.
- GEM Motoring Assist says that paintwork on the road is expensive, so if there are painted marks on the road then they’re there for a reason. Be prepared that the more paint there is the greater chance there is that danger is ahead.
- Finally, look out for skid marks on the road. They could be a result of a driver coming into trouble before you, so learn from their mistake.
In conclusion, it’s a good idea for all drivers to adjust their driving style and speed accordingly, and while they’re travelling on country roads look out for obstacles like farm animals, horse riders, cyclists, pedestrians and large vehicles such as tractors.
If all drivers took care to drive slowly, safely and more cautiously, being prepared for the unexpected, then country roads could become a safer place for all road users.