Country roads appear to be a quiet and pleasant to drive, they can in fact harbour significantly more hazards than urban roads.


Country road condition


The condition of country roads is often poorer than that of urban roads. Due to country roads not being as well maintained, there are often greater chances of hitting potholes. Potholes may puncture a tyre, cause wheel damage, cause defective tracking and can even damage the car mechanically.


When driving on country roads, try to avoid potholes safely by either slowing down, or if safe to do so, drive around them. If vehicles are driving closely behind you or it is not safe to drive around them if on a bend, you will have no option but to drive through them. Good use of "anticipation and planning" will help reduce the risks of problems.


Uneven road surface


Country roads have a tendency to be uneven. Although in dry conditions this doesn't pose any problems, hazards occur during wet periods or after it has rained in the form of standing water. Cambers are often implemented into roads to allow water drainage. A road that has not had effective cambers built or has failing cambers due to poor maintenance or erosion can cause standing water.


A car travelling at speed that hits standing water will aquaplane. This is where one or more of the tyres loses contact with the road surface by a layer of water. The best method for dealing with aquaplaning is to avoid it. Drive at the appropriate speed for the prevailing road conditions. If you are approaching areas in the road that are difficult to see ahead, use your mirrors and slow down. If you do hit standing water try to keep the car straight, come off the accelerator and don't use the brakes.


Blind country bends


Many bends on country roads are blind bends (Bends you cannot see around). A common cause of country road accidents is drivers taking these too fast and not preparing for what may be around the blind bend. Tractors and farm vehicles are, of course, reasonable common on country roads.


Cyclists can often use such roads and last minute attempts at avoiding cyclists on a blind bend at high speed certainly have the potential of an accident. Narrow blind bends are common place on country roads. Take precaution for what may be on or around the bend and use an appropriate speed based on what you can or can't see.




Animals on the road


Driving in the country sees a greater chance of meeting animals on the road than driving in towns. Therefore, good, regular use of your mirrors is essential to establish what vehicles are behind you and how close. Animals have a tendency to dash across the road right in front of you. Slow your speed to a speed appropriate for the conditions to allow you to try and avoid any animals. This will help you avoid harsh breaking which could be very dangerous on road that have mud, water or animal waste on them


Slow moving traffic


Farm traffic such as tractors and trailers are frequently seen on country roads. During a driving test, the examiner will be expecting you to overtake and make progress only if it is safe to do so. Don't think the examiner is sitting there impatiently waiting for you to overtake. Farm vehicles are often wide and long and may be difficult to pass regardless of their speed. Before overtaking, ensure the road is clear ahead and wide enough for you to safely pass. If you feel it is not safe to overtake, remain behind the vehicle.


Horse riders


Another potential hazard on country roads are horse riders. Again as with most country road dangers, horse riders are at their most vulnerable on the tight and twisting country road bends. Once a horse and rider has been spotted, check your mirrors for any traffic behind slowing down sooner rather than later giving both you, and any following vehicles time to act appropriately. Vehicles behind may not be able to see the horses. Horses and riders must be overtaken slowly avoiding revving the engine.




Other Traffic


Although the roads may appear relatively empty, you will of course meet other traffic. Villages joined by rural roads will be used by busses. Meeting busses on rural roads and village roads often requires providing extra room by slowing down and moving to the left or even on some occasions stopping is required to allow enough room. Look out for potential passing places.  Make a mental note of possible places as you pass them as it may be better for you to reverse to a passing place than for the vehicle coming toward you to reverse. Where possible give priority to vehicles travelling uphill to pass you.


Overtaking on country roads


It may be necessary to overtake farm vehicles if they are travelling at a particularly slow speed. If the road is particularly hazardous however, they more often than not pull over to allow traffic past. Other than very slow moving vehicles, horses and cyclists, it is not advised to overtake other vehicles on country roads.


Country roads can be deceptive and often it appears safe to overtake when it's not. Dips in roads, bends and other junctions joining your road often hide oncoming vehicles, so unless it's absolutely essential, don't overtake.


Closed junctions


Junctions on rural roads are often closed (blind) and often require more skill than those found in towns and cities. Many country roads have a speed limit of 60 mph (National Speed Limit) and approaching junctions at high speeds requires excellent observational skills to assess what potential dangers lay ahead. See junctions for further information on closed or blind junctions.


Bad weather conditions


Remember extra care in poor weather and indeed just after poor weather. Mud etc. may have been spread across country roads making them particularly dangerous. If in doubt slow down!




Country road driving tips




Mirrors should be regularly checked.


Signals such as arm signals need to be considered. When easing of the accelerator to slow down. remember that your brake lights only come on IF you use your brakes, an easing off the accelerator and the resulting reduction in speed may not be obvious to following traffic.


Position needs to be central in a single track to afford good views ahead so you will see hazards early.


Speed needs to be appropriate to the conditions of the road. Remember that road conditions can change quickly in country lanes etc.


Look all the time! You can never relax your observations.