In this factsheet we will cover:
- Why rural roads are dangerous for all road users
- The most common types of collision that take place on rural roads
- Speed limits on rural roads
- Overtaking and other risky driving behaviours
Rural roads pose high risks, accounting for well over half of all fatal crashes. Cyclists, motorcyclists and car drivers are more than three times as likely to be killed per mile travelled on a rural road than an urban road.
Speed is often a major factor in rural road crashes. A study of single-carriageway rural roads estimated that a 10% increase in average speed results in a 30% increase in fatal and serious crashes.
The most common crash types on rural roads are collisions at intersections, head-on collisions and running off the road.
Why are rural roads so dangerous?
Many rural roads are narrow, with blind bends and brows and limited safe places to pass. They often don't have pavements or cycle paths, yet are frequently used by some of the most vulnerable road users such as people riding or walking.
Many rural roads have poor road surface conditions and limited or no crash protection (such as no crash barriers either at the side or in the middle of the road).
Traffic often includes vehicles travelling at a wide variety of speeds, including slow-moving farm vehicles. There may also be animals, spillages or tree branches in the carriageway.
Rural roads are dangerous for all road users
Speed limits on rural roads
Most rural roads in the UK have a 60mph limit. However, due to their use by vulnerable road users and the design and condition of many country roads, 60mph (or anywhere near it) is rarely a safe speed to travel.
Rural roads frequently have debris such as mud and leaves on the road surface, meaning that in wet and icy conditions stopping distances are much greater. These factors mean that if a driver is going too fast they won't be able to react in time to people or hazards to prevent a crash. They also mean that if a driver is going too fast they may lose control and end up in the path of an oncoming vehicle or running off the road.
In a Brake and Direct Line survey, more than six in 10 (68%) of drivers said they feel it is acceptable to drive above the speed limit on rural roads. Nearly half (48%) of drivers said that they had driven faster than the speed limit on a single-carriageway rural road in the past year.
The Helpful Hazards campaign from Think! provides tips and advice on driving safely on country roads
- Department for Transport (2019) Reported Road Casualties Great Britain 2018
- Transport Research Laboratory (2002) The Relationship between Speed and Accidents on Rural Single-carriageway Roads
- Road Safety Observatory (2013) Rural roads
- European Transport Safety Council (2019) Reducing speeding in Europe: PIN flash report 36
- World Health Organization (2018) Global status report on road safety 2018
- Stipdonk, H. (2019) The mathematical relationship between collision risk and speed: a summary of findings based on scientific literature, European Transport Safety Council
Contains public sector information licensed under the Open Government Licence v3.0.