For commercial vehicle drivers, taking a rural road may not necessarily be their first choice, but it is most likely the best route to avoid heavy congestion and more often than not, roadworks. However, aheavy goods vehicle (HGV) in unfamiliar territory can be a danger for all road users, as well as the vehicle driver themselves, if they’re not taking the proper safety precautions.
According to the latest Department for Transport (DfT) ‘Reported Road Casualties in Great Britain’ report, the accident severity rating for commercial vehicles on rural roads is 25%, compared to the 20% reported on urban road types. This is despite there being significantly less commercial vehicle traffic on rural roads also, indicating that whilst the routes may not be as busy, they certainly demand the same, full attention.
Let’s look at why this is, and explore the most common mistake commercial drivers make on rural roads:
Doing 60mph when there’s a 60mph limit
For most parts of the UK, rural roads have a set 60mph limit, however in the Direct Line and Brake Report on Safe Driving, 68% of drivers said they feel it’s acceptable to drive above the speed limit on rural roads, and 48% of drivers saying that they had driven faster than the speed limit on a single-carriageway rural road in the past year.
The 60mph speed limit, as are all UK speed limits, there to keep all road users safe, and whilst it is not there to be broken, it also doesn’t always mean you need to drive at 60mph as a minimum.
This is because due to their use by vulnerable road users and the traditional bendy conditions of many country roads, 60mph is rarely a safe speed to travel.
Rural roads are also typical for having loose debris such as mud and leaves on the road surface, meaning that in wet and icy conditions stopping distances are much greater. For commercial drivers who go over these too quickly, or attempt to dodge the debris at high speeds, could cause a driver to lose control of the vehicle, end up in the path of an oncoming vehicle or running off the road.
Not considering the smaller lanes
Most rural roads across the UK are narrow, with blind bends and brows and few safe places to pass. They also don’t tend to have pavements or cycle paths, even though they’re frequently used by some of the most vulnerable road users such as people riding, walking or cross-country cycling.
Accident rates involving debris on the road surface has reached a five year high according to new data from Highways England, with more than 24,000 drivers claiming to be involved in accidents involving loose items on the road.
For rural roads, this debris included agriculture and farming debris, deceased animals, trees and vegetation, as well as mud, water and flooding which Highways England also considered types of road debris or obstructions.
It’s important to be extra vigilant around these hazards, such as giving animals time to move out of the road or carefully navigating around the obstructions. Though under no circumstances should a commercial vehicle be left unattended on a tight bend or hill whilst the obstacle is moved out of the road.
Assuming the road is clear
No-one knows what’s around the corner, and driving along a bendy rural road is no different.
So much so that Think!, the government’s designated road safety campaign, have launched a series of efforts over the years to highlight just how many unforeseen hazards there can be on rural roads.
These include the ‘Helpful Hazards’ where Think! created a quirky, viral social media video featuring sheep with spray painted ‘slow down’ signs on their wool, as well as the ‘If You Could See’ video which shows a high-tech x-ray style perspective of what drivers think they can see on the road.
Both memorable campaigns, with important messages that you can never simply assume there are no hazards ahead of you on a rural road.
Slowing down at the wrong time
Slowing down is one of the most important things drivers can do to protect themselves and other road users on rural roads, particularly where the visibility is poor such as at bends, brows and in bad weather conditions. But, it’s so important to remember when the right time is to push the brakes, as slowing down on a bend can cause be much more dangerous than slowing down before it.
It also means that when driving on rural roads at night, always slow down when you see oncoming headlights in the distance, and avoid any overtaking unless absolutely necessary.
But no matter what, rural roads always demand a drivers’ full attention. Driving distracted or taking unnecessary risks can have devastating consequences for every road user, and in all HGV accident cases, it’s imperative to have the vehicle recovered as safely and as quickly as possible.
At Egertons, we’re one of the UK’s leading vehicle rescue and recovery operators, offering a 24/7/365 service across the country. Our services stretch from breakdown recovery to specialist assistance, and our sophisticated triage process allows us to deploy the exact right vehicles, first time.
This is supported by our 24-hour control room, 300-strong fleet, vast range of equipment available on hand and the technology it is equipped with, making us the preferred vehicle rescue and recovery operator for UK fleets to rely on, no matter what.
When you need us, we’ll be right here.
We’re ready when you are.