Rural Roads

Rural Roads


  • Rural roads in the UK are defined as major and minor roads outside urban areas, in an area that has a population of less than 10,000 (RRCGB, DfT, 2016).

  • Analyses of accidents have been undertaken using different definitions of rural roads in the UK and the results compared. While accident numbers differ between the road classification methods, the trends remain similar.

  • Crashes on rural roads are a major road safety problem, accounting for up to two-thirds of deaths and serious injuries worldwide. Rural intersections are often particularly hazardous, with over 30 per cent of rural crashes occurring at intersections (Corben, Oxley, Koppel & Johnston, 2005).

  • Although safer infrastructure and appropriate speed limits have helped reduce deaths on rural roads in the EU, in 2015 over 60% of fatalities in Single Vehicle Collisions 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).

  • In September 2014-October 2015 rural roads saw the highest increase in road traffic volume, with a 5.8% increase on minor rural roads (provisional data; DfT, 2015c).

  • In 2015, 63% of all fatal accidents occurred on rural roads (RRCGB, DfT, 2016.

  • The proportion of accidents and fatalities occurring on rural roads was fairly consistent for different vehicle types in 2015 (e.g. 31% of all motorcycling accidents and 66% of fatal motorcycling accident occurred on rural roads; 35% of all car accidents and 68% of fatal car accidents occurred on rural road; 40% of accidents involving vans and LGVs and 65% 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 rural 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).

  • Enhanced verge maintenance and removal of vegetation on rural roads in Lincolnshire and in Norfolk increased sightlines and was 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).

  • There were reductions in recorded speeds on rural roads in Lincolnshire where VMSs were introduced at a number of locations (DfT, 2010).

  • Rear facing average speed cameras in Norfolk were associated with significant reductions in contraventions of the speed limit (DfT, 2010).

  • Most collisions at rural intersections in Australia occur in high-speed settings, at intersections that are uncontrolled or controlled by stop or give-way signs, and often on low-traffic-volume, single-carriageway roads (Corben et al., 2005).

  • Cost-effective measures to improve safety on rural roads include:

    • Measures to reduce speed and therefore injury severity.

      • These measures include physical and perceptual speed reduction treatments.

    • Improvements to reduce the occurrence or severity of side impact crashes, including roundabouts, traffic signals, grade separation, channelisation, signing to clarify priority, removal of sight distance obstructions, and limited access from side roads/driveways.

    • Improvements to reduce the occurrence or severity of head on crashes, such as provision of medians or other measures to prevent overtaking in unsuitable locations, or provision for safe overtaking.

    • Improvements to reduce the occurrence or severity of run-off crashes, such as removal of road side obstacles, use of safety barriers, and skid resistant pavements at bends or specific hazards.

(Corben et al, 2005) 

  • Rumble strips in the centre of two-lane rural roads are a countermeasure to help drivers who are unintentionally about to leave the lane, for example, due to sleepiness or inattention. Installing centreline milled rumble strips on two-lane rural roads 8–10 metres wide is a measure to consider to increase safety. Research indicate a significant decrease in all types of severe injury crashes, a 20% (±13%) reduction in the number of fatalities and seriously injured people (all crash types) and a 27% (±18%) reduction in the number of fatalities and severely injured people in single-vehicle crashes, in a study on two-lane roads in Sweden (Vadeby & Anund, 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. Whilst not specific to rural roads, these geometric elements are prevalent in rural areas. (Bella & Silvestri, 2017).

  • Analyses shows that the UK urban accident rate (per billion vehicle km) is more than double that of rural roads. However, accidents on rural roads have a higher severity, as 2% of accidents on rural roads are fatal compared with 0.3% on urban roads. Similarly, 19.5% of accidents on rural roads led to serious injuries compared with 8.6% on urban roads (DfT, 2015b).

  • Speeds on single carriageway rural roads are generally well within the national 60mph speed limit. Observations from 270 sites around England show a wide distribution of mean speeds on roads with speed limits of 60mph. The speed assessment framework operates on the principles that the speed limit choice should be guided by assessing actual accident rates relative to defined thresholds (DfT, 2006).

  • The length of time for US emergency medical services to arrive at the scene is longer in rural areas than in urban areas (Burgess, 2005; National Safety Council, 2008).



  • Date Added: 03 Apr 2012, 08:04 AM
  • Last Update: 08 Mar 2018, 12:51 PM