Because there is less traffic, some drivers feel a false sense of security on country roads. However, they are statistically the most dangerous for all types of road user, accounting for six in 10 fatal crashes. Car occupants and motorcyclists are twice as likely to be killed on a country road as an urban road; cyclists are more than three times as likely.
Country roads may sometimes appear empty, but they are full of unpredictable hazards. They are shared spaces used by pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, slow farm vehicles, livestock and wild animals – all of which have a right to be there. They are often narrow with blind corners and bends, pot holes and debris, and no pavements or cycle paths. All these factors mean the 60mph limit on most country roads is too high for safety, giving drivers insufficient time to react in an emergency. Yet country roads are plagued by fast drivers, many of who risk horrific crashes by speeding, taking bends too fast and overtaking.
What needs to be done?
Drivers can help make country roads safer by always driving as though someone or something could be round every corner – that means staying well under speed limits, and slowing right down for bends, brows and other hazards, in rural communities, and whenever visibility or conditions are poor. Drivers should also avoid overtaking, unless essential and 100% safe.
We are calling on government to lower the default speed limit on country roads from 60 to 50mph, and require local authorities to implement 40, 30 and 20mph limits where there are particular risks. Lower speed limits should be combined with enhanced traffic enforcement, and public education campaigns warning of the dangers of speed and overtaking on country roads.
At the same time, we need more investment in alternatives to car use in the countryside – more traffic-free, off-road cycle and walking paths, and more frequent, affordable and well-marketed rural bus and train services. Making country roads safer isn't just about preventing casualties – it's also about empowering people to get out of their cars and enjoy the beautiful British countryside on foot, bike, or horseback, without being intimidated and endangered by fast traffic.
What can I do?
- Share the campaign on Twitter, Facebook or Google+ using the buttons at the top of the page
- Tweet your support: @Brakecharity, #RuralRoadsnotRacetracks
- Make Brake's Pledge to slow down on country roads, and encourage others to do so
- Write to your MP calling for lower speed limits on country roads in your area and across the UK
- Sign up to our monthly bulletin for updates on our campaigns and how you can help
- Campaign for lower speed limits in your community with Brake's support
- Fundraise to support Brake's campaigns and vital support work
- Sign up for the UK's flagship road safety event, Road Safety Week, in November
Find out what you can do to help our other campaigns.
Risky overtaking forces one in seven drivers to take evasive action, 26/05/2015
Brake welcomes government THINK! campaign highlighting dangers of country roads, 09/10/2014
Brake condemns decision to increase speed limit for lorries on single carriageways, 24/07/2014
Drivers urged: don't treat country roads like racetracks; one in three admit driving too fast, 24/07/2014
Male drivers more likely to risk lives by overtaking blind and speeding on rural roads, 11/04/2013
Local MP wins award for campaign to lower speed limit on Crooked Mile, 13/04/2012
Stephen Phillips MP receives road safety award for speed limit campaign, 14/12/2011
Brake response to speed camera data published by Department for Transport, 24/08/2011
Life-saving benefits of Scottish speed cameras demonstrated, 27/07/2011
Speed cameras switched back on in Oxfordshire, 01/04/2011
Report shows 800 lives saved by speed cameras annually, 24/11/2010
Brake volunteer Clare Brixey leads protest at decommissioning of speed cameras, 20/08/2010
Brake and Direct Line publish Safe Driving Report on Speed, 01/08/2010