Here in Derbyshire our proximity to the Peak District means we are never far from nature. Beautiful countryside is always on our doorstep, so make sure you arrive there safely! Here are our top tips for getting the most out of your countryside drive.
- 59% of all fatalities occur on country roads
- The number of people killed on country roads is ten times higher than that of motorways
- In 2015 10,307 people were seriously injured on country roads in Great Britain
1. Stick to the speed limit – and don’t be afraid to drive slower
Speed limits are the max speed in which you can drive in a particular area, not the speed which you must drive at! If you are used to driving in built up areas or areas with significant and modern infrastructure, you are probably used to driving at the speed limit. However rural roads are different, and require different driving skills. Sharp bends and unexpected hazards are common in the countryside so you should leave yourself enough reaction time to deal with dangers. Drive round a corner too fast, and you are likely to encounter something, whether it be oncoming traffic or a sheep in the road.
2. Detriment on the road
Whether its mud, manure or a tree always be aware of detriment on the road. Mud can be very slippy in wet conditions, particularly combined with winding country roads. Manure on your vehicle can again be slippy and is just generally unpleasant. Fresh manure is also a good indicator that horse and rider are nearby. Horses are a particular danger as they are easily spooked, so make sure you pass them cautiously and slow right down.
3. Risk of flood water
After heavy rainfall it’s common for country roads to become flooded. You should try to avoid flood water as it is difficult to know how deep it is and what is hiding under the water’s surface. Furthermore, modern car electronics don’t respond well to water and even a tiny amount of water sucked up into the engine can ruin it. On many cars the engines air intake is low down at the front.
If you have no other option but to drive through the water, make sure you drive slowly and be prepared to take action and reverse if it becomes too deep. Check your brakes thoroughly afterwards to make sure they are working properly. And get your car checked out by a mechanic before driving again if you feel that the water has risen too far.
4. Treat country roads as a separate entity
The best drivers will adapt to their situation. Read the road, adapt to the bends and dips and keep an eye open for sudden obstacles and concealed entrances. Be aware that this is much more likely than in more populated areas.
5. Your view may be obscured
Less maintenance on country roads means that hedges and verges can be overgrown and block your view and obscure potential hazards. Fog is particularly dangerous due to the lack of streetlights. Always approach low visibility in the mind-set that something will appear as far as you can see. Be doubly careful when you are driving down a single track road.
6. Be aware of slow moving vehicles
There are many instances of slow moving vehicles on country roads, in particular farm vehicles. This is frustrating but be wary of overtaking as often tractors will take up a significant portion of the road so can block visibility. Furthermore they are unlikely to be going far up the road so stay patient!
Trailers should be taken into consideration too because of their size and in the bendy lanes may swing out.
7. Wildlife and livestock
Farmers often use country roads to move livestock around so be alert and ready to wait if you suddenly find yourself surrounded by sheep! It is frustrating when this happens but the best thing to do is to slow to a stop, turn your engine off and wait patiently.
Similarly, wild animals may run in front of you at any point. If a small animal like a rabbit or a pheasant appears try to avoid the instinct to swerve out the way as this is dangerous and could cause a serious accident. A dented bumper is preferable to a crash.
If you encounter a larger animal such as a deer you should brake to reduce the impact and give your horn a beep to encourage them to jump out of the way.
8. Weather conditions
Country roads are less well maintained than their better traversed counterparts for obvious reasons, so adverse weather will affect them doubly. Bridges in particular are one to watch as they will be the first to freeze in cold weather, and often the last to thaw as they are not exposed to direct sunlight.