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Rural Roads

Reckless young drivers put lives in danger on rural roads

Autoglass® is calling for an urgent review of the way in which young drivers are prepared for driving on rural roads.

A national survey of driver habits on country lanes, in association with road safety charity, Roadsafe, reveals that the under 25s are the most likely to take risks, with over one in three confessing to taking a bend at speed, one in five driving faster than was safe to do so and two thirds admitting to breaking the national speed limit. 

Every year, there are around 3,000 fatalities on UK roads.  Two thirds of these occur on rural roads with July and August being the peak months for collisions(1).   Yet, according to the Autoglass® survey, only a third of young motorists (32%) understand that they are more at risk of an accident when driving on a rural road than other public highways.  Out of all drivers of all ages questioned, men are the biggest risk takers, with seven out of ten (69 per cent) admitting to exceeding the speed limit on rural roads compared to half (50 per cent) of women.  One in three men (33 per cent) say that they have taken a bend at speed and one in five (18 per cent) have driven faster than they felt was safe. 

With one in four male drivers killed or seriously injured on rural roads under the age 25(2)  and road crashes in general being the number one killer of people aged 15 - 24 in the UK(3) , Autoglass® is appealing for young drivers to take extra care when driving on country lanes.

Nigel Doggett, managing director at Autoglass®, says:  “Less traffic on rural roads compared with urban roads and motorways often leads people to think that they are safer to drive on.  But rural roads have their own very unique hazards, with high hedgerows, farm animals and slow-moving vehicles, hills, bends and blind corners affecting the view of the road ahead.  Combine this with accelerated speeds and the time that a driver has to react is significantly shortened.  This is where manoeuvres such as overtaking at speed and on a bend become a serious risk and could be putting lives in danger.  On narrow roads, it is virtually impossible to guess the speed of vehicles travelling in the opposite direction and any lack of judgement, especially in those who are inexperienced at driving through the countryside, could be fatal.

“As we enter the peak months for collisions on country lanes, our advice to young drivers and others travelling on rural roads is, even if you think you know the road ahead, watch your speed, beware of hazards, take extra care on bends and do not overtake unless you have a completely clear view of the road ahead.”

The Autoglass® research comes at a key time for rural roads safety.  The Government is preparing to go to consultation on how new drivers can be better prepared for the challenges of driving on rural roads and in August last year, Department for Transport (DfT) issued new guidelines for local authorities on setting local speed limits.

Adrian Walsh at Roadsafe says:  “Most local authorities are taking action in reducing collisions on non-built-up roads under their jurisdiction, introducing speed calming measures including flashing signs, interactive driver information and other road engineering measures to bring speeds down.  Yet while there is an undoubted correlation between speeding and crashes, we need to educate drivers themselves, especially among young people, to try and change their driving behaviour.  Much more needs to be done with young drivers and we need to radically rethink how we prepare them for driving.  It is not just about the driving test, a much more holistic approach is needed.”

This approach is supported by the Autoglass® research, where almost nine out of ten (86 per cent) of all drivers surveyed believed that young drivers should receive more practical experience of rural roads when learning to drive.  And despite two thirds (60 per cent) of all drivers questioned admitting to going faster than the speed limit when travelling on country lanes, almost half (45 per cent) would welcome a reduction in the national speed limit for rural roads.

Nigel Doggett continues:  “It’s an interesting anomaly that 60 per cent of the drivers we surveyed admit to speeding, yet half believe that the limit should be reduced.  Clearly, driver habits on rural roads need to be addressed and we will be sending the findings of our research to the Department for Transport as part of their consultation.  A copy will also be sent to the Driving Standards Agency (DSA) and we urge them to consider rural roads as part of their own ‘Safe Driving for Life’ initiative.  Hopefully, this will help in making rural roads a safer place for everyone.”


(1) DfT Road Casualties Great Britain 2005
(2) According to Brake
(3) According to RAC Foundation



Notes to Editors

Summary of Autoglass® Findings

1,550 motorists were surveyed by YouGov

  • 50% of all drivers surveyed said they sometimes exceed the speed limit while driving.
  • A third of motorists (33%) falsely believe that they are at more risk of an accident on an urban road.
  • Almost 7 out of ten men (69%) admit to driving above the speed limit on a rural road and almost a fifth (18%) say they have driven faster than it was safe to.
  • Almost half (42%) of all drivers aged 18-24 have taken a bend at speed on a rural road. 
  • Slow moving traffic on rural roads - such as tractors, caravans and cyclists - make two out of three drivers annoyed (60%) but just one of out 10 drivers admits that this affects their driving.
  • Nearly half of all those surveyed (45%) believe that the national speed limit should be reduced on rural roads, with one in five (18%) saying that it should be cut to 50mph.
  • Almost nine out of 10 (86%) drivers believe that young drivers should receive more practical experience of country/rural roads when learning to drive.


Fast Facts and Stats

  • 3,201 people were killed on Britain's roads in 2005 (DfT 2005)
  • Every day, four people are killed or seriously injured in accidents involving young drivers (DfT, 2005)
  • Eight out of ten accidental deaths involving 15-19 year-old men occur on the road (DfT, 2004)
  • More deaths occur on rural roads than on urban ones. In 2005, over 2,000 people were killed on rural roads compared to just over 1,000 on urban roads. The number of deaths on rural roads has also decreased at a slower rate than deaths on urban roads. The number of serious and slight injury collisions is higher in urban areas; in 2005 there were 164,298 on urban roads and 105,490 on rural roads. These figures suggest that while the number of collisions is higher in urban areas there is a greater chance of a collision resulting in death on rural roads (DfT 2005)
  • 21% of men and 10% of women think it is safe to drive faster on rural roads late at night because they will see oncoming headlights (DfT, 2004)
  • Almost one in ten 17-28 year olds and inexperienced drivers (who have been driving for less than a year) think it's safer to break the speed limit on rural roads due to the lack of cars around (DfT, 2004)



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