Onus is on employers to raise rural road safety awareness, says Drivetech

Onus is on employers to raise rural road safety awareness, says Drivetech

Many people underestimate the danger rural roads pose, and yet 71% of crashes involving younger drivers take place on them. Equally, more deaths occur on rural roads than urban ones. The most recent data available shows that in 2021, 70% more fatalities occurred on rural roads (981) than urban ones (576), despite the fact that rural roads carry more than a third fewer vehicles in a 24-hour period (NFU Mutual).

Why is this? Well, there are many reasons why rural roads pose specific risks. One is that they are often isolated, which means it can take longer for emergency services to reach drivers in need of help. They also often have the national speed limit in place. Inexperienced drivers are more likely to interpret 60 miles per hour as a safe driving speed, and less likely to judge an appropriate speed for the conditions faced. Add in sudden bends, unlit roads and wildlife, and the picture becomes increasingly more hazardous.

Duty of care

Employers have a responsibility to promote driver safety across their fleets as part of their duty of care, regardless of driver age, and regardless of whether vehicles are employee (grey fleet) or company owned. At Drivetech, part of the AA, we believe this duty of care should encompass raising awareness of best practice when it comes to driver safety too – particularly when it comes to rural driving.

The AA Charitable Trust’s ‘Our Rural Young Drivers’ campaign delivers vital information to young drivers about the dangers they face on rural roads in memory of Caitlin Huddleston, who died on the A595 in Bootle, Cumbria, in 2017, after the car she was travelling in as a front-seat passenger collided with an oncoming van. Neither driver was exceeding the speed limit but Caitlin’s friend was travelling on an unfamiliar road in wet weather. The trust recently reported that the A425, a rural route located between Leamington Spa and Southam and Daventry, is the riskiest road for this age group.

As part of the AA, we are dedicated to keeping drivers safe on the road through our work providing speed awareness training for the police, as well as providing vital driver training to businesses UK-wide. Here are Drivetech’s top five tips for helping to keep all drivers in your fleet safe on rural roads:

Don’t be blind about corners

When driving along country roads, often it’s difficult to see what’s around the corner. You could turn to find yourself suddenly faced with pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders, farm traffic or other vehicles turning out of a side road. If you’re not sure what’s round the corner, slow down. Bends are typically marked by chevron signs that indicate how sharp the upcoming bend will be so drivers can adjust their speed.

Watch your stopping distance

Sometimes too, you may have to drive on muddy or dusty roads, so making sure you keep windscreens clear at all times is a must. Loss of control is a common factor in fatal rural accidents. Keeping an eye on your stopping distance could save your life – or someone else’s.

Be tractor aware

If you find yourself stuck behind a tractor, be aware that they can be longer than they appear – i.e. when they have a loader on the front. They can also turn unpredictably, as they’re only required to use brake or indicator lights at night. Keep plenty of distance and ensure you have lots of room to get past if you need to overtake. It’s worth bearing in mind that tractors often only make short journeys, so it’s perhaps worth hanging back to see if they turn off before attempting to overtake

Think bike, think motorbike

Don’t forget to warn the cyclists and motorcyclists in your fleet about rural driving safety either – they are three times more likely to be killed per mile travelled on a rural road than its urban equivalent (Brake).

Map out the safest routes

We can’t say it enough – when it comes to rural road safety, knowledge is power. This interactive map, produced by the AA Charitable Trust, in partnership with the Road Safety Foundation, highlights the most dangerous rural roads for younger drivers, a tool which is easily shareable fleet-wide.

For more information about Drivetech, visit: www.drivetech.co.uk.

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