Rural roads are the most dangerous roads to drive on in Britain. There’s a multitude of hazards, including pedestrians, horses, tractors, cyclists and parked cars to take into account, all at speeds of up to 60mph – only 10mph less than the motorway speed limit.
It’s unsurprising, therefore, that two thirds of all UK road deaths take place on rural roads, with that figure rising to three quarters for Scotland and Wales.
The good news is that you can minimise your risk of being involved in an accident through good observation, correct road positioning and driving at a speed appropriate for the conditions.
Traffic cop Paul Smart often has to pick up the pieces when a driver has got it wrong on a rural road. “It’s a lack of experience that’s the problem. While older drivers have more powerful cars, those cars have better brakes and the drivers are more experienced; they know that a gateway coming up could mean a tractor about to emerge onto the road.
“They also know that if they can’t see a stretch of road ahead – because of a blind bend or a dip – they know they have to slow down because they don’t know what’s in that ‘dead’ bit of road.
“What we tend to find is that if there’s a crash on a rural road it’s because a young driver has been over-confident in their approach to a hazard and haven’t left themselves with enough time or distance to pull up. The result is invariably a crash and in all too many cases that crash is fatal.”
So, what should you watch out for on rural roads?
Not only do tractors tend to go slowly, they’re also massive – which is a problem if you bomb it round a blind corner and see one coming towards you, leaving you nowhere to go.
Riders on horseback are a common sight on rural roads – make sure you pass them slow and wide. However, other creatures like deer, cattle and sheep can also be a hazard and they’re far less predictable too.
Mud from tractor tyres is often left on the roads in the countryside. When it rains and the mud gets wet it can become very slippery.
When the road’s only wide enough for one car, you’ll need to be able to pull up in time or there’s going to a crash. Always be able to stop in the distance you can see will remain clear.
Huge piece of wood blocking the road = bad news.
Slow down dramatically for a tight bend and make sure you stay on your side of the road. You can use gaps in hedges and trees to look out for traffic coming the other way.
Most villages have a 30mph limit and have many of the same hazards you find in the city. Look out for pedestrians, parked cars, children and cyclists.
The drains in the sticks often aren’t as good as they are in the town. Deep puddles and floodwater is therefore a real problem. Slow down if you see standing water to minimise your risk of aquaplaning.