The dangers of rural roads: THINK! Brake before the bend, not on it

Oxfordshire County Council’s Fire & Rescue Service is supporting the national “Rural Roads” Campaign. It’s a way to highlight risks, as 60% of fatal casualties on Oxfordshire occurred on country roads (2016 data). These often have sharp bends and blind bends which can hide unexpected hazards. If a driver loses control or attempts a dangerous overtake, a 50mph head-on collision results in impact speed of 100mph. Or, if a driver/rider loses control and leaves the carriageway they can then hit fences, walls or other solid, immovable objects like trees (rather than ‘road’ furniture like metal barriers and signs, which are designed to bend/absorb some of the impact energy).

What’s the advice from Oxfordshire Fire & Rescue Road Safety?

If we are on an unfamiliar road, we need to ask ourselves:

  • Can I see far enough ahead?
  • Can I stop in the distance I can see?
  • Do I know how sharp that bend is, what’s the camber?
  • Does the road have hidden hollow/dip, where a vehicle may be hidden?
  • Is there a junction I can’t see/or be seen by others?
  • Is this an appropriate speed, given the road environment, weather and visibility?
  • How I’m feeling today? (tiredness can kill)

Even when we are familiar with the road, it changes every time we drive it.

  • Is the road wet/icy, does it have mud, spillages on it today?
  • What’s round that bend today?
  • Could there be a broken-down vehicle I can’t see?
  • A cyclist?
  • A pedestrian (perhaps wearing dark clothing or drunk)?
  • A horse and rider?
  • Farm machinery or tractor on the move?
  • An animal in the road?
  • Perhaps even a previous crash/recovery going on?

Andy Ford, Road Safety Team Leader at Oxfordshire Fire and Rescue Service said: “Oxfordshire is a beautiful place to live and we are fortunate to be surrounded by open countryside much of the time when driving. Many of us feel safe when we are on a rural road but it is often a deadly mix of long straight runs, where we can pick up speed, punctuated by sharp bends. If you aren’t familiar with the road, it’s safer to drive to what you can see and brake before the bend, not on it. If the road is familiar to you, ask yourself what might different today, what’s round that bend this time?”

What about other roads?

Compared to rural roads, motorways and dual carriageways still remain the safest roads to travel, largely because they don’t have complicated junctions (crossroads, roundabouts) and vehicles aren’t usually sharing space with vulnerable road users, such as pedestrians/cyclists. Most collisions are nose to tail – with impact speeds estimated at 15-20mph.

In urban environments, vehicle occupants are more likely to be slightly injured in a road traffic collision. Unsurprisingly, the majority of serious or fatal injuries to pedestrians and cyclists are in a built-up environment.

Over 95% of all road casualties are as a result of human error and very often have more than one contributory factor. You may drive a little too fast for a road you know well but this time the road is wet, or the driver has had an alcoholic drink or are taking that telephone call, or perhaps not concentrating properly because they are angry or tired. We might get away with one risky behaviour on a regular basis but if we add in other risks, the likelihood of being in a road traffic collision increases significantly.

So be aware on rural roads. Stay in control and give yourself time to react because you never know what’s around the corner. THINK! Brake before the bend, not on it.