It’s a lovely, sunny day (trust me – you will see the sun again!) and you’re wending your way through country lanes, enjoying the freedom of the Great British countryside. Sounds delightful, doesn’t it? No traffic crowding you from all sides, no honking horns; just the gentle rustling of trees and the occasional rabbit foraging at the roadside.
While this might be most people’s idea of a lovely country drive, the reality – at least in terms of road safety – is rather different. 60%* of all fatalities on the roads (yes, that figure includes motorways) occur on rural roads, with three people a day dying on average. Pretty shocking isn’t it?
Don’t shelve those plans for a scenic drive just yet though – here are some tips to help make your trip to the country as safe and enjoyable as possible.
Round the bend
Think about the last time you went out for a country drive. The road was probably quiet and you may have felt like you could take a few risks with your speed. Now, suppose that you’d accelerated into a sharp bend, with no way of knowing what was around the corner. It doesn’t take a genius to work out what could have happened.
The truth is, rural routes often have sharp bends and poor visibility, and they’re quite well used. There could be pedestrians, horse riders, motorcyclists, cyclists or slow-moving farm vehicles around the corner, so don’t get carried away with your new-found sense of freedom – slow down, take your time and brake before a corner, not on it.
Life in the slow lane
Many country routes are classified at the national speed limit of 60 mph. However, this doesn’t mean that it’s safe to drive at that speed. Be aware that 60 mph is a maximum limit and not a target. In all cases you should drive at a speed that’s right for the road in front of you.
As well as taking into account how far you can see, you need to be aware of the road surface. With councils everywhere facing tight budgets, less well used routes are often in a poor condition, with potholes, crumbling edges, poor surfaces and faded road markings.
The growing season
You’ll be able to see further ahead at certain times of the year than you can at others. In spring and summer, verges are likely to become overgrown, so make sure you’re able to stop in the distance that you can see to be clear.
To help you to anticipate what’s ahead, look for clues. For example, if you see freshly mown grass verges, you could expect to find a mowing machine somewhere ahead. Likewise, mud could indicate a tractor using the road. And cattle, sheep and horses leave obvious signs that they’ve been using the road recently!