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Tips for driving on country roads

Carlton Boyce / 28 January 2016 ( 09 August 2018 )

Tips to make you more confident and safe when driving along country roads.

Country road
Country lanes tend to be narrow, making it important that you don’t cut corners and do stay on your side of the road

While I accept that statistics can be used to prove almost anything, it’s a fact that the majority of serious and fatal accidents occur on country roads. 

So serious is the problem that you are 11 times more likely to be killed on a country road than a motorway, and they account for 60% of all traffic fatalities.

Inappropriate speed is the biggest killer, but the range of hazards that the motorist faces includes deep drainage ditches, mud on the road, slow-moving tractors, poor lighting, and runaway livestock.

The problems aren’t insurmountable; they just need a slightly different mindset. 

Read our tips for tackling motorways

Here’s how to deal with the unique challenges that the countryside poses.

Adjust your speed

The speed limit is just that: a limit, not a target. So just because you can travel at 60mph doesn’t mean you should. 

Often 30 mph is plenty fast enough because you need to be able to stop within the distance you can see.

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Look for clues

If you see an open gate and fresh mud on the road, then there is a very good chance that there is a tractor trundling around somewhere. 

Similarly, an open gate and fresh cow dung probably means that a herd of cows in meandering its way back to the farm to be milked. 

In either case, you’ve got all the information you need to slow down in anticipation of the unfolding hazard.

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Skid marks and other warnings

Skid marks on the road, broken fences and hedges, and road-side debris are all clues that someone has had an accident there recently. 

If they’ve had a problem negotiating that stretch of road, then you might too, so slow down!

Don’t cut corners

Country lanes tend to be narrow, making it important that you don’t cut corners and do stay on your side of the road. 

That way, if a tractor comes towards you at speed, you should still have enough room to stay out of its way, whereas if you’d cut the corner and crossed the white lines…

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If you do need to overtake, you need to be doubly sure that the vehicle you are overtaking isn’t going to turn in front of you to go into a field or driveway, or that another car isn’t going to join the carriageway from a side road into your path.

The defence is to be constantly vigilant and to plan for what people might do rather than what they are doing.

Paint is expensive

Painting lines on a road is expensive, so if you see lots of paint then it is there for a reason. 

A general rule is that the more paint you can see, the greater the danger, so slow down and take your time to negotiate whatever hazard it is alerting you to.

Read our tips for dealing with aggressive drivers

Read from the top down

If you see a road-side pole with a number of signs attached to it then the first hazard will be at the top, the second will be the next one down, and so on. 

Knowing this means that you can plan to deal with them in the order that they are going to occur.

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Dealing with livestock and wild animals

Animals, whether domesticated farm animals, like cows and horses, or completely wild, like deer, are unpredictable. So slow down, give them plenty of space, and keep your engine revs low to minimise any noise that might spook them.

If you need to overtake a horse and rider then please follow this advice 

With other animals it is often better to come to a halt and wait for them to move out of the way by themselves. Just don’t forget to use your hazard warning lights as necessary to warn other traffic that you are stationary.


The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated. The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.