Country Roads Introduction

Driving on country roads can be daunting for even the most experienced of drivers.

Sharp bends, ditches and the possibility of being stuck behind a tractor are all factors that mean it's important to be hyper-aware of your surroundings. This section looks at the key things to consider when driving on country roads, whether you're a young, inexperienced driver or simply not used to driving on rural country lanes.

Young men are particularly in danger on Scotland's country roads. Country roads account for approximately 60% of all fatalities on Scotland's roads.

In 2018, over 700 people were killed or seriously injured on country roads – and of these, two thirds were men and nearly 40% were aged between 22-49.

No matter how well you think you know a route, it's crucial that you're prepared for the unexpected to happen – especially on country roads.

Country Roads

Country Roads What are the risks?

Most accidents on country roads are the result of driving too fast for the conditions and subsequent loss of control. Here's why you should adjust your speed behind the wheel:

  • Country roads can be deceptively dangerous.
  • Drive too fast and you may not have time to react to the unexpected.
  • That means not just obeying the speed limit, but often driving well below it.
  • Unpredictability. A tractor might suddenly pull out or there may be mud on the road. Drive with care, just in case.
  • Hazards. Driving too fast for the conditions is the most common cause of death on country roads.

When driving, it's better to rely on your skills than on luck.

Country Roads Risk Taking

Why do people take risks?
  • They're not being watched by the police.
  • There are fewer 'hazards' front of mind e.g. pedestrians, cyclists – although they do recognise that cows, deer and tractors can be a problem.
  • Country roads usually have higher speed limits and they get a buzz out of going faster.
  • Some become complacent on familiar roads, driving to what they remember, ("I know the roads") rather than the road or weather conditions.
  • They view external driving conditions as posing bigger risks than their speed.
  • If they're overfamiliar with a route and a car, they might choose to take educated risks ("I know the roads").

As a general rule, drivers – and particularly young male drivers – take more risks on country roads than urban ones.

Country Roads

Country Roads Drive safely

It's easy to underestimate the risks on country roads. To help stay safe, follow these tips:

  • Belt up: It could make a crucial difference to you and your passengers in the event of a crash.
  • Watch your speed: Drive at a speed that doesn't affect your decision-making ability – this could be well below the speed limit.
  • Prepare for the unexpected: You might know the road like the back of your hand, but conditions and other traffic are always changing.
  • Reduce your speed on bends: You never know what could be around the corner.
  • Look out for blind summits and hidden dips: Keep an eye on road signs and slow down as you approach.
  • Slow it down on hairpins: Going a fraction too fast could force you into the middle of the road, leaving you exposed to oncoming traffic.
  • Put away any distractions: Ignore your phone, leave your Sat Nav alone and wait until you've arrived safely to have that packet of crisps.
  • Stay in control: Drive to the conditions and be alert to unexpected hazards.

Country Roads

Country Roads Dealing With Bends

Rural roads tend to be rather bendy, so slow down when approaching them - especially if you can't see past the bend - it may be a lot tighter than appears to be. Some drivers like to do a quick beep before going around blind corners, just in case there's an oncoming driver - but be aware that on some roads there may be horses and riders, so avoid doing this excessively.

As you negotiate bends repeatedly, your vehicle's centre of gravity will constantly shift making your stability and handling a little less safe, particularly at higher speeds.

A technique to use when dealing with bends:

Ease Your Speed
Slow down on the approach. This may mean just easing off the accelerator or braking to a much lower speed, possibly resulting in dropping to a lower gear. This gives you more time to assess the bend and allows more reaction time for the unexpected. Position your vehicle correctly for the bend you're negotiating; keeping left on a right-hand bend and to the center of your side of the road for a left-hand bend.
Drive Through The Bend
Use the accelerator gently to maintain a steady speed through the bend. By forcing the engine to drive the wheels you make the tyres grip the road more, lessening the risk of skidding or spinning. Many vehicles leave the road on bends because they enter them too quickly and then brake, causing a shift in the centre of gravity. When you brake the weight of the vehicle goes forward. If you are negotiating a bend at the time then the forces that are acting against you, effectively trying to push you outwards, can have a devastating effect as the weight transfers to one front corner. Imagine putting a drawing pin into the corner of a piece of paper, the paper then spins on that axis.
Accelerate Out of The Bend
As you start to clear the bend, and you see the road ahead opening up and straightening out, you can then gently accelerate to get your speed back up.
Country Roads

Country Roads Trip planning

Plan your trip in advance, especially if you're unfamiliar with the area. It's important to ensure that you know the route you're planning to drive - whether it's a country road or not. Be sure to take a map and a set of written directions as mobile signal can be patchy in rural areas.

Spacing issues

Make sure you give cyclists and horses plenty of room if you're overtaking. It's also important to make sure you only overtake in a safe spot where you can see oncoming traffic.

Fuel up

When driving on country lanes, petrol stations can be rare so it's important to make sure your car has plenty of fuel before you venture off into the unknown. Breaking down on a single-laned country road can cause a multitude of problems as pile ups can easily happen.

Driving at night

If you're driving after dark, it's worth bearing in mind that country roads are rarely lit. Therefore it's recommended using your full-beam headlights so you can see what's going on ahead of you, but don't forget to take the full-beam off if you see oncoming traffic - you wouldn't want to blind someone and cause an accident.

Country Roads
Leave plenty of time to get to your destination

Tractors and other slow-moving farm machinery are the bane of many country drivers lives. If you do get stuck behind one, don't take unnecessary risks - only overtake when you have enough room and can see the road ahead for any oncoming vehicles. It's also polite to wait your turn to overtake if you're in a queue of traffic.

Advice for young or inexperienced drivers

Take care when driving on country roads and if you don't know the area don't be embarrassed to reduce your speed or stop in a safe place to ask for directions.