Staying safe on country roads

Whether you consider yourself a countryside driving pro, or an infrequent visitor, these tips for rural driving should help you stay safe and avoid the hazards.

Speed – they're limits, not targets

If you are used to driving in towns and cities, you may be accustomed to driving at the speed limit. With many rural roads carrying limits of 50mph or 60mph, you may feel that you should be driving at these speeds – you'll find that this is not always the case (or the safest!) Rural roads require different set of driving skills – the maneuvering of sharp bends, unexpected hazards and changing road conditions can all catch out even the most frequent drivers of the countryside. That's why it's important that your speed should be determined by the conditions of the road and not by a limit.

Driving round the bend

Frequent users of rural roads will have witnessed many near misses often caused by drivers that take bends in the road too quickly.

When driving on winding roads, slow your vehicle ahead of the bend to a speed which will allow you to stop if something or someone suddenly appears, especially as you turn a blind corner. If you are still braking as you enter a bend, then you're driving too fast and you're not in full control of your vehicle.

Look ahead and use hedges and trees to determine where the road ahead is going. Many modern vehicles are equipped with satnav which gives you an indication of the shape of the roads and any bends that lie ahead, however, we do not recommend on relying on this alone.

Beware of flooded roads

Roads in rural areas often become flooded. Driving through floodwater is very risky as it is difficult to know how deep the water is and what is hiding beneath the surface.

Modern vehicles rely on complicated mechanical and electrical components and systems that are responsible for engine management and safety. When submerged in water, this can fail. Debris build-up can damage mechanical components and block systems. Repairing these components can be expensive and may even result in an insurance write off!

If you have no option than to drive through floodwater, drive at a slow pace and be prepared to reverse out of the water should it become too deep. Try to prevent water from reaching the lower level of the doors. If unable to prevent this, do not attempt to drive your vehicle until a mechanic has had a look at it.

After driving through deep water, always check your brakes to ensure they are working properly.

Don't get stuck in the mud!

It's that time of the year where there is a burst of activity in the countryside, which means more farm vehicles will be on rural roads. Inevitably, there will sometimes be mud from the fields left on the roads.

Farmers have a legal obligation to ensure their vehicles are cleared of any mud or debris before driving on the roads, however, motorists should still be mindful of this hazard as mud can be dangerous as it can be incredibly slippery in wet conditions. It is especially dangerous for anyone travelling too quickly around a corner.

Similarly, wet leaves can also cause vehicles to lose traction and skid – so be cautious and stay aware of seasonal conditions.

Look out for local wildlife

Visitors to the countryside might be surprised when one of the local wildlife suddenly appear in front of their van. Although your instinct might be to swerve to avoid an animal, this is very dangerous. A broken fog light or dented bumper is better than a serious accident due to losing control of your vehicle.

Larger animals may present a bigger problem, so braking to reduce the severity of the impact is advisable and sounding your horn as you slow down might be enough to startle them to get out of the way into safety.

Farm traffic

Farmers often need to drive tractors and other machinery on roads and this can be a source of frustration for some drivers caught up in a queue. However, a tractor doesn't usually travel too far, so you won't have to wait too long until the road is clear again.

If you do decide to overtake the tractor, make sure the road ahead is clear. You don't want to pull out and be faced with an oncoming vehicle that had been obscured by the tractor, as this may force you into manoeuvring dangerously to avoid the vehicle, putting other road users at risk. Also, consider if there any junctions ahead where other motorists may pull out from.

Read between the white lines

You may have noticed that country roads do not usually have line markings, yet in some areas, there are lots of painted on road markings in rural spots. Paint and markings are added to the road where there is a history of collisions and fatalities.

The more paint there is on the road, the more potential danger there is.

Be aware and take extra care!


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