Rural Roads

Rural Roads

Key Facts:

  • Rural roads in the UK are defined as major and minor roads outside urban areas that have a population of less than 10,000 (RRCGB, DfT, 2017).

  • Most accidents in the UK occur within urban areas; however, a greater number of fatal accidents occur in rural areas. (RRCGB, DfT, 2017).

  • While accidents on rural roads accounted for 34% of all traffic accidents in 2015, they accounted for 64% of user fatalities (RRCGB, DfT, 2016).

  • In the EU, in 2015 over 60% of the road users losing their lives in Single Vehicle Collisions (nearly 7,300) occurred on rural roads. Young drivers and riders are at a greater risk of becoming involved in fatal single vehicle collisions than any other road user age group. This risk is twice as high for the 18-24 age group compared to the 25-49 age group (ETSC, 2017).

  • The proportion of accidents and fatalities occurring on rural roads was fairly consistent for different vehicle types in 2016 (e.g. 31% of all motorcycling accidents and 66% of fatal motorcycling accidents occurred on rural roads; 36% of all car accidents and 67% of fatal car accidents occurred on rural roads; 41% of accidents involving vans and LGVs and 74% of all fatal accidents involving this vehicle type occurred on rural roads). (RRCGB, DfT, 2016).

  • In Lincolnshire, reductions from the National Speed Limit to 50mph on certain high-risk routes resulted in a 76% reduction in KSI collisions and an overall 35% reduction in collisions (DfT, 2010).

  • In April 2015, new national speed limits came into force for heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) over 7.5 tonnes on single carriageway and dual carriageway roads in England and Wales. The new limits are:

    • 50 mph (up from 40 mph) on single carriageway roads

    • 60 mph (up from 50 mph) on dual carriageway roads

  • In the period following the introduction of the new speed limits there is preliminary evidence of a reduction in HGV collisions estimated to be between 10% and 36%, however, it is not possible to attribute this directly to the speed limit changes (Department for Transport, UK, 2016).

  • The removal of vegetation in verges can increase sightlines and be associated with an increase in both vehicle speeds and collisions (DfT, 2010).

  • Incomplete removal of road works markings, no guide signs or incorrect positions for guide signs of road works increase crash probability by over 200% (Lopez, de Ona, Garach & Baena, 2016).

  • Rear facing average speed cameras and/or the use of Variable Message Signs (VMS) can be associated with significant reductions in contraventions of the speed limit (DfT, 2010).

  • Crash frequency and severity increases when the verge lateral clearance width (hard shoulder or clear verge width) decreases (Peng, Geedipally & Lord, 2012).

  • The oldest and youngest drivers, and drivers from rural areas, are at particularly high risk on rural roads (Thompson, Baldock, Mathias & Wundersitz, 2010; Fosdick, 2012).

  • Drivers perceive rural roads as less risky than urban roads, even when similar scenarios occur in both environments (Cox, Beanland & Filtness, 2016).

  • Although slow moving vehicles are rare, accidents involving them tend to be high in severity (Hawkins, Kinzenbau & Hallmark, 2009).

  • Safety knowledge is not always associated with safe riding behaviour; unsafe riding behaviour is strongly associated with having been in a crash (Jennisen, Hartland, Wetjen, Hoogerwerf, O’Donnel & Denning, 2017)

  • Many rural accidents involve overtaking. Where there is demand for overtaking, overtaking lanes can facilitate safer overtaking and yield significant safety improvements. A small minority of drivers continue to overtake when prohibitions are introduced (Hegeman, 2004; Tuovinen & Enberg, 2003; Weber & Jahrig, 2010).

  • A large proportion of overtaking accidents occur in areas with insufficient overtaking sights and where no configurations of traffic regulation have been taken to counter overtaking manoeuvres. The assumption that drivers can detect insufficient overtaking sights independently and therefore do not begin to overtake, is wholly inadequate, because the complex weighting process of existing overtaking possibilities contains errors. Miscalculations of overtaking sights as well as speed of and distance to oncoming vehicles are the main problem areas. Missing configurations of traffic regulation can negatively warp the drivers’ perception. Instead, drivers must be supported in road sections with insufficient overtaking sights through operational measures in their task of driving (Richter, Ruhl, Ortlepp & Bakaba, 2017).

  • Having a paved shoulder on an uphill segment of a rural road appears to provide significant benefits, including reducing the likelihood of a centreline crossing by nearly 80%, and from encroaching into oncoming traffic by over 50% (Chapman, 2017).

  • The presence of a cyclist as an influence on a driver’s behaviour depended on geometric elements; On tangents, the lowest lateral clearances were recorded and no speed reduction was observed, compared to a scenario with no cyclists; On the left curve, the higher lateral clearance was recorded, due to the concordant tendencies of the driver to move away from the cyclist and to cut the curve. This determined an excessive and risky displacement of the vehicle to the opposing lane, whose criticality was also emphasized by the high speed adopted by the driver; On the right curve, the lateral clearance was higher than that recorded on the tangents, probably due to the necessity of the driver to perform the demanding manoeuvre of entering the right curve, which also determined a speed reduction compared to the cyclist absence condition (Bella & Silvestri, 2017).

  • The proximity of a hospital and the emergency service response time can be a critical factor determining the severity of the outcome and the survivability of an accident, which has obvious relevance to rural roads given their greater likelihood of being in remote locations (National Safety Council, 2008; Prato, Rasmussen & Kaplan, 2014).

  • The development and implementation of eCall technology in vehicles could significantly reduce the fatality rates on rural roads (European Transport Safety Council, 2013).


  • Date Added: 03 Apr 2012, 08:04 AM
  • Last Update: 08 Mar 2018, 12:45 PM