The DfT has launched a new THINK! ‘country roads’ campaign on the back of new figures which reveal that rural roads are the deadliest.
The new DfT data shows that on average three people died on country roads* every day last year. In total, 1,040 people were killed and 9,051 seriously injured on country roads in 2014, with a third (348) of fatalities occurring on a bend.
In spite of this, in a survey of 2,000 drivers conducted earlier this month, almost a quarter of respondents admitted to braking too late on bends and two fifths (41%) claimed to have swerved to avoid something in the road.
The problem on country roads is most acute among young drivers, with a third confessing to braking too late before a bend and more than one in 10 admitting to ‘taking the racing line’ by crossing into the opposite side of the road. Young drivers are also the most likely to overtake on a bend without a clear road ahead.
In response, THINK! has partnered with a farmer to turn potential road hazards into impossible-to-ignore warning signs. ‘Helpful Hazards’ features animals and vehicles sprayed with signs prompting drivers to slow down, anticipate hazards and brake before the bend, not on it.
The campaign also includes a re-run of the ‘If you could see’ video and radio ads which were first launched in October 2014. The video uses 3D scanning technology to allow the viewer to see through objects and spot the danger ahead that the driver can’t see. The ad has been updated based on feedback from last year’s campaign to better demonstrate the ‘x-ray’ effect.
Andrew Jones, road safety minister, said: “Every injury and death on our roads is a tragedy and that is why the new THINK! country road campaign is so important.
“We want the public to anticipate potential hazards on the road when driving in the countryside, to watch their speed and take care when approaching a bend.”
The campaign is backed by two high profile sports personalities and the Campaign to Protect Rural England (CPRE).
Phil Vickery, former England rugby player and countryside resident, said: “I do a lot of driving on winding country roads every day and am often shocked at the lack of care other drivers take around blind bends. My wife and I have been involved in several near misses, and minor incidents, so this is something very close to my heart.
“You never know what might be around the corner: from cyclists, horse riders and wildlife to debris and slow-moving vehicles, we all have a duty of care to be respectful to all users of the countryside and keep each other safe.”
James Cole, British Touring Car champion, said: “I’m concerned that so many people take the racing line on bends. It’s one thing to do that in a racetrack environment but quite another to do it with no knowledge of what is around the corner.
“Take more care, anticipate hazards, stay in control and give yourself more time to react by braking before the bend, not on it.”
Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the CPRE, said: “Our country roads and lanes are for everyone – drivers, walkers, riders, cyclists and, of course, farmers. They are often beautiful, lined by high hedges and dry stone walls. They are part of rural life. But they also account for the majority of fatal crashes.
“Even if you think you know a road like the back of your hand, you can never be sure what’s round the corner. So let’s keep our country roads safe for everyone too. Please take care, and keep your speed down.”
The DfT defines rural or country roads as “all roads outside of urban settlements with a population of 10,000 plus and with any speed limit, but excluding motorways”.