Driving Safely On Winter Roads
More than half of all deaths in road traffic accidents in the UK happen on the country’s rural roads, so with winter on its way it is a good time for a new five-week national campaign launched at the start of November.
In addition, most driving tests and learner training take place in urban areas and this has implications for employers who may require their drivers, especially a new one, to visit customers in a work-related role, they may be going to rural area where they have had no training or little experience.
Employers have duties under health and safety law for on-the-road work activities. The Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 (HSW Act)2 states that you must ensure, so far as reasonably practicable, the health and safety of all employees while at work. You must also ensure that others are not put at risk by your work-related driving activities.
The THINK! Campaign is aimed at highlighting safety when driving on country roads and particular driver behaviour.
The biggest contributory factor in rural vehicle accidents is loss of control, particularly on bends when driving at inappropriate speeds.
Even on a completely deserted road the speed limits apply and yet drivers regularly ignore them, but they are there for a reason.
What are the additional hazards on country roads?
Roads are generally narrower, usually only two lanes, and with no clear markings or footpaths. Generally country roads have many more bends and roadside vegetation such as trees and hedges may make it more difficult to anticipate when a bend is coming up.
Even in villages there may be little or no street lighting which makes it difficult to see the road ahead clearly at night.
There are other hazards, including people on horseback, pedal cyclists, pedestrians walking along verges and farm vehicles.
All these will move at a slower pace than a car or van driver may wish and the resulting impatience at being stuck behind often leads to drivers taking risks, particularly by overtaking when they cannot see the road ahead clearly.
Similarly, be careful of blind summits to hills, and of dips in the road. Be aware also that there may be concealed entrances to fields.
Overgrown verges, bushes and trees on country roads can block your view and potentially obscure an approaching hazard.
What can drivers do to stay safe on country roads?
The most important piece of advice is to stay alert and to think ahead at all times. Watch for clues to potential hazards such as a sharp bend coming up with no obvious warning signs or road markings. Skid tracks may indicate a hazard where another driver has come to grief. Similarly quantities of mud on a road suggests farm vehicles in the area as well as making the road surface more slippery.
Always drive at a safe speed that will allow you to slow down if you meet an unexpected hazard. Always slow down well ahead of a bend, especially when you can’t see how sharp it is. Particularly in winter driving should be as smooth as possible so give yourself time to slow down rather than hitting the brakes at the last minute.
Finally, never overtake on a country road when you can’t see whether there are vehicles coming the other way.