Unfortunately due to the nature of our work as serious injury lawyers, we investigate many avoidable accidents each week. Many of these accidents are in rural areas.
The most frequent cause of these accidents, in our experience, is excessive speed. There are also other factors which also arise such as excessive alcohol or drug use, poor road/weather conditions and dangerous road conditions.
Information from Brake
Brake, the road safety charity, report that more than half of fatal crashes in Britain occur on rural roads and that, per mile travelled, rural roads are the most dangerous. In 2019, there were 931 fatal accidents on rural roads compared to 627 on urban roads and rural roads accounted for 57 per cent of fatalities involving cyclists.
Speed is often a major factor. A study of single-carriageway rural roads estimated that a 10 per cent increase in average speed results in a 30 per cent increase in fatal and serious crashes. There are blind bends, brows, inpatient drivers and limited safe places to pass. There is rarely space for vulnerable road-users, such as pedestrians or cyclists, to manoeuvre. Lighting is almost always much poorer than in urban areas.
The local authority may treat the rural roads as less of a priority for maintenance, meaning that they could fall into a state of disrepair.
There is limited protection at the sides of the road. There are occasionally no white lines. There may be animals or heavy goods machinery. There may be no pavements.
There may also be debris on the road caused by, for example, a local farm.
Behind every statistic is a story of human loss
We have taken the opportunity to comment briefly on some of the tragic incidents that we have seen on rural roads in recent years below.
In one tragic case that one of the authors of this article was involved in, a father-of-two went round a corner on his motorbike. Tragically, he skidded on the road and fell off. As he was getting up to climb back onto his motorbike, he was struck by a vehicle and died almost instantaneously.
The driver of the vehicle had been travelling behind him but had not seen him. He left behind a widow and two young children.
In another tragic case, a driver overtook the vehicle which our client was in at speed. He executed a dangerous manoeuvre and turned sharply into the path of our client’s vehicle. The driver’s vehicle clipped our client’s vehicle which subsequently rotated and turned over. Our client was left with a spinal cord injury, rendering him paraplegic.
In a further case, our client was a passenger in a vehicle. It was a foggy night. The driver of the vehicle was driving too quickly. He caused the vehicle to leave the road and collide into a tree.
Our client sustained a severe traumatic brain injury. Incredibly, because of the remote location, our client and the driver were not found for approximately two hours after the initial collision which was based on telephone records.
What can I do to keep myself safe?
The advice from Brake is clear: “Slowing down is one of the most important things drivers can do to protect themselves and other road users on rural roads. This means always staying well within speed limits and slowing down on rural roads, particularly where there is poor visibility (e.g. at ends, brows and in bad weather) and avoiding overtaking unless absolutely necessary."
Brake is running a campaign urging the Government to reduce the speed limit on rural roads from 60 mph.
Tips for safety on rural roads
Always keep your speeds in check. Even though the speed limits can be up to 60mph, you should always drive at a safe and comfortable speed consistent with the road conditions, especially when you are unfamiliar with the roads.
Be vigilant - rural roads contain blind bends and unforeseen hazards,. Ask yourself whether you can safely stop quickly when driving if you came across an unforeseen hazard.
Be aware of the condition and adjust your driving speed in adverse weather. Look for tell-tale signs of danger on the road, such as mud, skid marks or debris.
Try and avoid overtaking unless absolutely necessary.
Finally consider planning your journey carefully and if needs be stick to major roads, particularly when its dark.
Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in supporting people and families affected by collisions at our dedicated road traffic accident section.
'The default speed limit on rural roads is 60mph, a speed at which it is rarely safe to travel, on these often windy, narrow carriageways. We believe that speed limits should be based on the design of the roads and that's why, for rural roads we are campaigning for safe, not 60.' Brake