Rural Roads

Rural roads hide unexpected hazards

Somerset is a rural county and the majority of the county's roads run through the countryside. It is an unfortunate fact that 60% of all fatalities from road traffic collisions occur on rural roads; so it is worth spending a little time thinking about some of the hazards you may encounter when driving through the countryside.

Vehicles travelling on single carriage-way roads are subject to the national speed limit. However, rural roads follow the contours of the land and, as such, are full of hazards such as sharp bends, blind summits, hidden dips, and concealed entrances, to name but a few. It is also a fact that many country roads are very narrow and traffic travelling in opposite directions is forced to travel within the same space. It is therefore safe to say that driving at the national speed limit along these stretches of road is not a sensible option and drivers should ensure they drive at a speed that is appropriate for the road conditions. Remember to look out for warning signs as they will provide you with notice of upcoming hazards.

You will find below a list of some of the more common types of hazard that you may encounter when driving on rural roads:

Debris:                                          

Debris is a common hazard on country roads; fallen branches from overhanging trees, large stones washed out from fields, or mud from agricultural vehicles could be just around the next bend. Hitting this debris at speed can either cause your vehicle to lose traction with the road surface, or cause damage to the vehicle itself.

Flood water:

The layout of country roads can mean that drainage in some areas is poor. During periods of heavy rainfall water can have nowhere to go and ends up forming large deep pools in the road. Never attempt to drive through flood water unless you know how deep the water is. Remember that 30cm of flowing water is enough to move the average family car and 60cm of standing water will float it. It’s also worth noting that large stones and other debris, washed out from fields and hedges, can lie unseen under the water and can damage your vehicle if you attempt to drive over it.

Pot holes:

Weather can take its toll on the surface of the road and cause potholes to form; in some cases these potholes can be large and deep. Driving over these potholes at speed can result in loss of control or damage to the vehicle itself. Be alert for signs of wear to the road and try, if possible, to avoid driving on those areas.

Animals:

Animals, both wild and domestic, can be found by the side of the road or on the roadway itself; be alert to their possible presence and remember that animals can react in unexpected ways when confronted with a vehicle. Slow right down if you see animals by the side of the road as they may well attempt to cross the road at the last minute. 

Horses and riders:

The simple rule if you meet a horse and rider is to pass wide and slow; and only when it is safe to do so. On small lanes where the road is too narrow to pass with a safe distance between the horse and the vehicle - be patient; most horse riders will pull their horse in for you to pass at the next available passing place. Never rev your engine or beep your horn as this could easily spook the horse and result in the rider being thrown.

Agricultural vehicles:

Agricultural vehicles are a common sight on country roads. Be alert for them pulling out from fields, many of the gateways to which are concealed within high hedges making it difficult for both you and the driver of the agricultural vehicle to see one another.  The sheer size of modern agricultural vehicles can make them a hazard to other road users; it is often necessary for them to encroach on the other lane and on narrow lanes they can take up the entire road width. Remember this fact when approaching sharp bends and slow down as you never know what may be coming round the corner

Staying safe on rural roads is not a difficult task as long as you remember to expect the unexpected and keep your speed down, so that you have time to react when the unexpected occurs.

 

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