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22 November 2017 | Comment | Article by Ciaran McCabe

Rural roads are not racetracks

A dangerous trend is emerging. People are not driving according to road and weather conditions on rural roads, but are instead treating the speed limit as a goal to be overcome. When rural roads get treated like racetracks, nobody wins. Here’s why:

It may be surprising to some that more than half of fatal crashes and a high percentage of all accidents in which people sustain life-changing injuries occur on rural roads. In fact, the Department of Transport statistics support the fact that per mile travelled, rural roads are the most dangerous roads for all kinds of road user.

Most rural roads have a speed limit of 60 mph. However, it is rarely the case that 60mph or anywhere near it is a safe speed to travel on these roads.

It is often the case that rural roads pose many hidden hazards – blind bends, no cycle paths or pavements as well as often being single track roads. It is also often the case that these roads are not well maintained and may often have potholes and debris strewn in them. It is also true that they will often not be gritted in winter. All of these additional hazards mean that if a driver is going too fast they are more likely to lose control and end up running off the road or into the path of an oncoming vehicle.

A study of single carriageway rural roads by the Transport Research Laboratory estimated that a 10% increase in average speed results in a 30% increase in serious and fatal crashes. Rural roads while appearing empty often contain cyclists, farm vehicles, livestock and wild animals. In addition, overtaking on a single carriageway is one of the most dangerous manoeuvres drivers can perform. If two vehicles are heading towards each other and both are travelling at 60mph the gap between them decreases by about 60 metres every second. It is therefore incredibly dangerous to overtake on rural roads, where there will rarely be enough straight, visible roads ahead to be certain that nothing is coming in the opposite direction.

I recently successfully acted for a claimant who had sustained a spinal cord and brain injury following an accident on a country lane. The vehicle in which she was a passenger was speeding down a country lane when it hit a spillage on the road and the car went out of control, rolling and ending up on its roof. As a consequence of the accident, the claimant was rendered paraplegic and suffered a severe brain injury. They have been unable to return to employment due to the severity of their injuries and are now sadly dependent upon full-time carers. This case illustrates the horrendous consequences of speeding and overtaking on rural roads and how important that it should be avoided at all costs.

Author bio

Ciaran McCabe


Ciaran McCabe is a Partner and joint head of the National Serious Injury Department. The department was awarded Claimant Catastrophic Injury Team of the year at the PI Awards in 2021. He has specialised for over 20 years in assisting both adults and children, through England and Wales, who have sustained life changing injuries to the brain, spinal cord and limb loss.

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