Country roads, take me home… (safely)

Empty, straight rural road cuts between two fields

I’ve got a bit of a shocking statistic for you. Did you know that around two thirds of road deaths happen on country roads? That’s more than urban roads and motorways combined. What’s going on here?

The keen beans among you might have read our blog post last year about the dangers of driving too fast on country roads. (Check it out here if you missed it or fancy a refresher).

If you’re already keeping a close eye on your speed, good job! Have a virtual high five. But don’t get complacent; it’s not all about speed. Country roads can be particularly tricky because they have their own set of hazards. You need to be ready for them if you want to avoid running into a risky situation.

Don’t worry – we’re here to help you with this! Whether you’re a city-dweller who’s never met a cow, or you’ve spent your whole life in the countryside, we’ve got some top tips to keep you safe.

Ready for a tour of the countryside? Buckle up and read on…

Respect the size of agricultural machines

When you’re out and about on country roads, you may come across vehicles that you wouldn’t normally see when you’re cruising about town. If you’re near farmland, keep an eye out for large agricultural vehicles. Often these will be tractors, but there are other big machines out there like crop sprayers and combine harvesters.

You can help to keep everyone safe by remembering these points:

  • Big agricultural machines usually move slowly, and they may take up the whole width of the road.
  • If you’re thinking about overtaking a tractor, drop back so you can see more of the road ahead. If you’re too close, you won’t be able to see if there’s another slow vehicle in front of it. If you have any doubts about what may be ahead, it’s safer to not overtake.
  • If a tractor is turning, you might be tempted to squeeze past while it’s doing so. But wait! Tractors often have big implements on the back. They stick out behind the tractor and take up more space than you think when they turn. Be patient; hang back and give it plenty of space. You should only carry on once it has finished turning and you can see that your way is clear.

Mind the pedestrians

You may find yourself on country roads without pavements, so it’s super important to keep your eyes peeled for walkers and joggers. Pedestrians should usually walk facing the traffic when there’s no pavement, so they could be coming towards you on your side of the road. This could take you by surprise if you’re going round a bend, so keep it in mind if you can’t see what’s ahead.

Hold your horses (…but don’t literally hold the horses)

If you meet horse riders, the key thing is to be patient. Horses can be easily scared by noise, so don’t rev your engine or sound your horn.

Slow down, give them plenty of room, and be prepared to stop if the rider signals this to you. If you’re going to overtake, you’ll need to pass slowly and leave plenty of space. Make sure that it really is safe before you overtake, especially if you’re on a winding narrow road; there could be another hazard just around the corner.

By the way, you can treat cyclists like horses, too. There’s no need to give them sugar lumps, but you should give them space, be patient, and wait until it’s safe before you overtake.

Other animals on the mooooo-ve

It’s not just horses; you may come across livestock like sheep and cattle on the road, too. They may be on their way to pastures new, or the cattle may be heading to or from the milking parlour. (Did you know that dairy cows get milked twice a day? If you see a warning sign for cattle, it’s a good clue that they may be on the road. Keep scanning ahead so that you’re not taken by surprise if you meet travelling cows!)

As with horses, you need to drive slowly and quietly when you’re near these animals. Don’t sound your horn or rev your engine – they’ll probably be startled by the sound. Keep your engine speed low and give the animals as much room as possible.

Keep on learning

Hopefully you’ve found this tour of countryside hazards helpful. Keep practising on country roads and soon you’ll be a pro! As always, you can get more help, advice and guidance on Safe Driving for Life. Hop on over to the online shop and pick up a copy of The Official DVSA Guide to Driving – the essential skills.