Hazards for van drivers on rural roads

Driving in rural areas can be fantastic – great views, fresh air and not a traffic jam in sight. However, country roads are not free from danger. What can you do to keep yourself safe when driving a van on rural roads?
Whether or not it’s road-related, once you have a criminal conviction it can be harder and more expensive to get quality insurance cover. Don’t worry – van insurance for convicted drivers from Insurance Factory is on hand to help.


Country roads have a high share of road fatalities

Around 40% of UK traffic is on rural roads, but 62% of all road fatalities happen in the countryside - around 5 deaths per day occur in this way. Most fatalities are car occupants (46%) followed by pedestrians (23%).
In 2016, there were 910 fatalities on rural roads, compared to 93 on motorways and 789 in built up areas.
The factors behind this higher death rate are complex. The national speed limit of 60mph applies to many rural roads, meaning drivers travel much faster than they would in built up areas.

Fatalities may be higher because ambulances take longer to reach collision sites in remote areas.
To avoid the risk of a collision, make sure you understand the main hazards you are likely to encounter on a rural road.



The 60mph speed limit that applies in many country roads is a maximum speed, not a minimum speed but you wouldn’t always know it from how drivers behave.

One in three (33%) of drivers admit going too fast for safety on country roads and 80% of drivers think traffic is too fast for safety in rural areas.
Most of the time, the contours of the road or adverse weather conditions mean you should be going well below 60mph. At 60mph, the average driver’s stopping distance is around 73 metres, which is the length of three tennis courts.

Many hazards in rural areas appear within this distance, meaning you would have no chance to stop in time. According to road safety campaigners Brake, driving at sensible speeds in rural locations is essential to reduce your risk.
 A car lightly hitting the back of another car in-front


In most circumstances, there is no need to overtake on a single carriageway country road and doing so is going to cause unnecessary danger.

Most rural roads have turnings, bends and dips that mean it is hard to see approaching traffic. Even when approaching traffic can be seen, it is not possible to judge its speed as it approaches, making collisions more likely.


Blind corners

Winding roads are a common feature of the countryside. You never know what you will encounter going around one, so you should be ready to stop, braking well before the bend so you will be in full control as you turn.


Heavy rainfall is increasingly common, and rural areas are sometimes prone to flooding. You should avoid driving through flood water where possible, as it can conceal debris and may be deeper than it looks.

If you do drive through, go very slowly, be prepared to reverse out and check your brakes afterwards.


Mud on the road

Depending on the time of year, roads can get very muddy in rural areas. The problem is even worse when wet leaves build up on the road, making surfaces slippery and dangerous. Driving with care and taking corners slowly will help to reduce this risk.

A country road winding through a forest of tall trees

Restricted vision

Hedges and trees burst into the open spaces around roads in summer, which is also when rural pedestrian numbers peak. The greenery makes it harder to see hazards ahead, although this can have the positive effect of slowing drivers down.


Horses on the road

Driving past horses should be done slowly and with care, as horses are easily frightened and can bolt into traffic when startled.

You should pass at least a car’s width from the horse and avoid loud noises or sudden movements. Watch out for piles of fresh manure on the road, too – they are a tell-tale sign that a horse rider is ahead.


Animals on the road

Suddenly swerving to avoid an animal in the road may mean you lose control of your van. If it’s something small like a rabbit or fox, it’s better to maintain your course than swerve and risk leaving the road.

If it’s a larger animal such as a deer or cow, sounding your horn and braking is usually the advisable course of action. Pay attention to road signs warning you that animals may be on the road ahead – they are there for a reason.


Farm traffic

Tractors and other farm machinery are large and slow, but overtaking should only be attempted in safe conditions.

Most of the time, tractors are only travelling a short distance or will pull over at a suitable point to allow traffic to pass. Be aware that tractors sometimes swing out into the middle of the road before turning.

A tractor on a country road

Icy bridges

When the weather goes sub-zero, bridges are the first places to freeze; when the ground thaws, the shady spaces underneath bridges are the last to warm up. Be extra careful around bridges in icy weather to avoid sliding your van on the road.


Panoramic views

Picturesque country locations offer stunning views, which brings the tourists in.

This is great for local economies but increases the likelihood of slow-moving traffic such as caravans and coaches, plus more walkers and cyclists on the roads.

Van drivers can easily be distracted by a good view and pay less attention to the road ahead.

Potholes and damaged road surface

Rural authorities have a lot of road to maintain, and potholes can often grow to a substantial size and depth before they are fixed. Driving over potholes can damage tyres, steering, suspension and wheel alignment or even cause a fluid leak.

Swerving to avoid a pothole can also be hazardous. Passing over a pothole as slowly as possible will help to avoid damage to your van. It’s not just a van, it’s your livelihood after all.
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