Whether you’re on holiday, taking a leisurely trip out or completing your daily commute, few things compare with driving down a quiet country lane on a hot summer’s day. However, driving along a narrow country lane is not without hazards, so it’s important to take extra care.
You may be surprised to learn that rural roads make up more than 50% of the UK’s total road network, covering around 154,000 miles, compared with only around 2,000 miles of motorways! Statistically speaking, country roads are among the most hazardous in the UK.
If you follow some simple safe driving tips for small country lanes, you can be more aware of any possible risks and take preventative action to ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible. By their very nature, country lanes can be unpredictable, so forewarned is forearmed, as the saying goes.
Why are rural roads hazardous?
Even though rural roads attract less traffic than the motorway network, they can actually be as dangerous as a busy highway.
The potential dangers include unmarked and hidden field and farm track entrances, animals such as sheep and cattle crossing the road, farm vehicles either crossing the road or travelling at a very slow pace, and rough road conditions.
Some rural lanes are unmarked and therefore not maintained – they may be full of potholes and dips. There are also lots of zig-zagging roads where blind bends are a problem, especially if the road is narrow and you meet a large vehicle coming the other way. Overhanging trees and overgrown hedges can further impede visibility.
Another potential hazard is your own state of mind when driving on a rural road. You may enter a state known as “highway hypnosis” – caused when you’re driving along a road with a similar landscape for any length of time. You may start feeling sleepy and in your dulled, drowsy state, you won’t be as sharp should a hazard arise.
Other variables which can affect your safe passage include the size of your vehicle, whether you’re driving at night on unlit roads and the time of year you’re driving, as the roads are likely to be busier in the summer.
Expect the unexpected
The main thing to remember is that it can be dangerous if you’re lulled into a false sense of security by a quiet lane. Always expect the unexpected and remain alert! At any moment, you may encounter a hidden turning, a blind bend, a section of road with a steep descent, crest or incline, a sudden dip in the road, or overgrown trees and hedgerows.
By remaining alert, you’re reducing the risk of an accident. It’s beneficial to use a sat nav in your vehicle. Although they’re not infallible, they can at least alert you to any side roads, small lanes or sharp bends.
Check your speed
It goes without saying that you must drive at a safe speed – don’t get carried away by a straight stretch of road ahead. It’s common sense to brake as you approach a bend and then accelerate again after you’ve cleared it. Never try navigating a bend Grand Prix-style – you’re not Lewis Hamilton!
Although the national speed limit on many country roads is 60mph, this can be deceptive and lead you to believe this is a safe speed at which to travel constantly. This isn’t always the case – use your common sense to assess whether you feel in control at all times.
Be aware that rural roads’ surfaces can be unpredictable. There can also be issues of poor drainage or flooding, so look for standing water ahead to avoid the possibility of aquaplaning off the road and into a field.
Tractors may leave clumps of mud or other debris on the road’s surface, making it slippery in wet weather, so take extra care when driving in the rain.
Awareness of other road users
Vehicles such as tractors will slow down traffic, but they have as much right to be there as other road users, so don’t try to overtake them, particularly when you have no idea what’s coming the other way.
Similarly, don’t be flying along at speed, only to drive round a bend and find a queue of slow-moving traffic directly in front of you, sitting behind a tractor.
You may also encounter more horse riders, cyclists and hikers on rural roads. Remember they are vulnerable. Always take care when passing them, slowing down for horses so as not to startle them. Never honk your car horn or rev your engine to urge them to get out of the way.
Treat other road users with respect and don’t behave rashly if you’re in a rush and feeling frustrated. Be particularly vigilant if there are village school entrances, church halls or other social facilities on the route, as there could be more pedestrians on the road, particularly if there are no pavements.
Driving a motorhome
If you’re driving a larger vehicle, such as a motorhome, or towing a caravan, take particular care on country lanes. Most rural roads are wide enough for single-lane traffic only – and sometimes, it can be difficult for wider vehicles to pass each other. Driving at a slower, safe speed is the solution.
Never forget you’re in a longer, wider vehicle! Take care when negotiating bends and never take any risks, thinking you can squeeze through a narrow gap at speed when traffic is approaching from the other direction – this is a sure-fire way to end up in a ditch.
If you see approaching traffic and you think you’ll struggle to pass, look for a passing point where one or both of you can pull further towards the side of the road. If this isn’t possible, slow down or simply stop to allow the other vehicles to pass.
Driving along country lanes can be a pleasure if you follow these simple tips and avoid taking any risks.
Driveline’s motorhome hire offers you a range of modern motorhomes that are ideal for getting away from it all with your friends and family. Take in Britain’s beautiful rural regions and set off for the adventure of a lifetime… come on, you deserve a break!
Please contact us for further information.