Country Roads

Overview:

Country roads will vary from busy trunk roads to narrow single lanes. Unless the signs say different the national speed limit will apply. It is important that you understand what the safe limit is for the road and conditions. 

Aims:

To drive safely on rural narrow country roads

Objectives:

  • Be aware of the speed limits
  • Understand the factors affecting your use of speed
  • Be aware of rural road users
  • Understand how rural roads can differ from urban ones

Unless it says otherwise the national speed limit will apply on country roads. This will be a maximum of 60 mph which is the limit for a single carriageway. A dual carriageway will have a barrier in the middle separating the traffic. 

As always you must be able to stop in the distance that you can see is safe in front of you. In practice this means that you need to think, can you stop safely if there is something in the road. What if a tractor had stopped around the next bend. But it could be anything, a bale of hay or maybe a horse and rider.

Where country roads do not get the same use as those in towns and cities they could be more slippery in cold weather. This is because the tyres from cars warm the road up over a period of time so long as there is enough of them. The shadow from bushes and trees may stop  the frost from melting. The roads can be wet or icy due to the runoff of water from fields. Bridges over rivers and streams will be colder and maybe more icy in the bad weather.

In the country a lot of the roads don’t have pavements. This can mean walkers in the road. They will normally walk towards the traffic. But on a right hand bend they will cross to the other side for a better view into the road and to be more easily seen by the cars coming towards them. Remember what we said about bends earlier. 

You can very likely come across horse riders in the country. You need to slow when you see them. It doesn’t matter which side of the road. Horses will be frightened by fast cars. Go round or past them carefully giving a nice gap. Don’t frighten an animal by using your horn. 

If you come across farm animals in the road go slowly and if necessary stop. Farmers may move animals from field to field using the road. Once again don’t use your horn. 

Watch out for bicycles on these roads. Quite often they are in small groups. Give them room when going round them. If the road is narrow make an allowance for the car that might be coming from the opposite direction. Bicycles can travel a lot faster than you might realise. A bicycle going down hill will get free speed. 

Country roads will often have single or double solid white lines in the middle of the road. If you have a solid white line on your side of the road this means that you cannot cross it. Remember this is done to make it safer. On these roads with a 60 mph limit,  if you are going at 60 mph and the car coming towards you is also doing 60 mph. If you were to hit the other car it would be a 120 mph collision (60 + 60). Death would be a likely outcome. 

These roads will not be lit by street lamps. Use your headlights and scan ahead for other headlights. Main beam if nothing ahead of you. Dipped if someone coming towards you. When in fog or rain  it may help to dip your lights as main beam can light up the droplets making to difficult to see. 

Be aware of the edges of these country roads. Sometimes they are granite kerbs, sometimes just grass and sometimes granite kerbs covered in grass. Watch out for the edge if its broken up. Quite often you can have a deep gully were your wheel might get stuck. Puddles can be a lot deeper than you think.  Mud from farm vehicles is much more likely on these roads. 

If the road becomes really narrow use the horn before any blind bend. Remember there could be something coming towards you that can’t see you. A toot of the horn gives you both a chance. Look out for passing places. Remember, always be able to stop safely in the space that you can see is clear in front of you. If the road is only wide enough for one car have that speed to allow for another car coming towards you. 

Look for line and signs as but remember they could be hidden. Look ahead and try to follow the sweep of the road round. Use the tree line or the hedgerows to estimate where the road goes. Look for gaps. Watch out for slow moving tractors. They could be coming in or out of fields which might make the road very muddy. 

Recap:

Be aware of the speed limit and what is a safe speed for the road and conditions. Remember the roads could be more slippery for all sorts of reasons. Watch out for animals including horses, bicycles, walkers and tractors. Be careful with the edges of these roads and any puddles you might find. Use your lights and horn properly. Work out where the road is going and what entrances from fields might affect you.

Further reading:

The Highway Code Rule(s): 154-156, 214

Driving The Essential Skills: Section(s) 10

On your driving test:

On test: Country roads