Rural Roads: The Dangers

Posted by Simon R 20/07/2021 0 Comment(s)

Staycations and driving holidays in the UK top the list of vacation plans this summer. Even though most of the Covid-19 restrictions were lifted on 19th July, travel plans overseas are still disrupted as the pandemic continues.

People not wishing to risk going on holiday abroad and facing quarantine restrictions on arriving home are choosing to stay in the UK, according to a survey by Wyndham Rewards. A massive 83% of respondents are planning a staycation this summer, with 44% intending to return to a destination they have already visited.

Rural Roads

© petert2 / Adobe Stock

The remaining 39% plan to explore somewhere new in the UK. Of the people planning to take a holiday, 64% say they will be driving. As the heatwave continues, this could lead to a surge of visitors to the coast.

For people more used to sunning themselves on a beach in Spain, driving around Britain's rural lanes could come as a shock! City drivers taking on narrow country lanes for the first time should be mindful of certain safety measures to reduce the risk of accidents.



Drive at a sensible speed

It goes without saying that you should drive at a sensible speed, no matter where you are. If you're driving on narrow rural lanes, it's even more important that you drive carefully. A lot of country roads are winding, with blind bends, no cycle paths and no pavements.

Drivers must take more care than usual and be aware of potential hazards such as other road users, mud on the road, potholes and even flooding if there has been heavy rainfall. While the lane might seem empty, it is shared with horse riders, cyclists, dog-walkers, pedestrians, farm animals and farm vehicles.

If you're driving too fast, it will be impossible to react in time to a sudden hazard, which might lead to a crash. If a driver is speeding, they may also be unable to navigate a sudden sharp bend, ending up in a ditch or field if they lose control.

Keep to a sensible speed and take into account high hedges, making it difficult to see traffic. You may even need to reverse to pass other cars if you suddenly come face-to-face with a few vehicles on a road where it's almost impossible to pass.

Most lanes will have places where you can pull over to let oncoming traffic through. If you have just passed one, you may have to reverse back to it. Having a reversing camera in your car can be useful in these situations. Always be prepared for hazards and keep your wits about you.



Be mindful of lane positioning

Some country roads don’t have any markings, so you may not be 100% sure where the middle of the road is. Take extra precautions if this is the case. Go slower than usual and stick to the left hand side of the road. Never drift along in the middle of the road, in case you suddenly meet a vehicle coming the other way.

Large vehicles coming in the opposite direction, such as lorries or tractors, will be a problem if you are going too fast. Always be aware of your position on the road and be ready to stop if you meet something coming the other way.



Brake before the bend

This is such an important point that the government created its "Brake Before the Bend, Not on It" campaign to remind motorists of safe driving practices. The braking campaign is part of the UK-wide Think initiative, which was launched to challenge dangerous driving.

When using country roads, drivers must anticipate the hazards that may lie ahead after a bend and reduce their speed. Don't leave it too late, as you may end up over-shooting the bend and driving down the wrong side of the road.



Respect other road users

You're not the only person on the road; be aware of cyclists, pedestrians and animals. Always respect other road users. Many country roads and lanes across the UK have working farms nearby. Domestic animals, livestock and wild animals can often be found crossing the road.

Be courteous if you meet a farmer herding cattle or sheep across the road, or if you see horse riders approaching. If it's a very narrow lane, stop and turn your engine off - wait until they have safely passed. Never rev up because you're in a hurry. This could cause a horse to rear or bolt.

Responsible horse riders will wear high-visibility clothing and will ride with care, particularly near bends. It's crucial that motorists take the same care.

If you pass a pedestrian walking in the road where there isn't any pavement, be equally courteous. They may feel vulnerable if you speed past, particularly if they are dog walking, or have kids with them.



Be respectful of farmers

Always respect farmers and their land. Remember that while you're driving for pleasure along the lanes, this is their domain. It supports their livelihood. While most farmers don't mind visitors, nobody appreciates people driving too fast on rural roads.

Even seemingly placid farm animals are easily frightened by cars and could be startled. Cows or sheep could bolt if you suddenly drive up behind them. If it's safe to pass, do so slowly, giving them a wide berth. Never startle the herd.



Be cautious of the weather

While it's wonderful to drive along in glorious sunshine in the middle of a heatwave, be careful if there is a sudden storm or heavy downpour. If there is standing water on the road, it could lead to aquaplaning and skidding, particularly if you're driving at night.

There may not be street lamps and you won't be able to see if there is water lying on the surface of the road. Similarly, heavy rain could cause mud to sit on the roads. Drive carefully and slowly in wet weather.



Take a map

Do your research before you set off and have some idea of the route you will be taking. While most cars are equipped with a sat nav these days, take an old-fashioned map with you too, in case you lose your signal in a very remote area.

Some modern sat nav systems use smart car positioning to accurately determine your precise location, even when the GPS signal is weak, or you're driving through a tunnel. Check with your local dealership if this is something you can have fitted retrospectively in your car.

Don't think that it will be very quiet because you're going into the countryside. Remember that hundreds of other people will have had the same idea! If it's a busy time, such as a Bank Holiday weekend, the roads will be packed wherever you are. Be prepared for some long waits if there are traffic jams. Take cold drinks, snacks and in-car entertainment for the kids.

Britain is blessed with beautiful countryside, so follow our simple tips to make your rural drive as smooth and enjoyable as possible.