Rural roads "more dangerous than motorways" says new campaign

A new Government campaign is aiming to make drivers more aware of the dangers of rural roads, using the startling fact that nearly eleven times as many people die on country roads than on motorways and that despite carrying a minority of the total miles travelled on British roads, rural roads account for 60% of total fatalities on the road network. The Think! road safety campaign has been welcomed by local authorities, police and others who deal with road safety in our region.

New research carried out to back the campaign reveals that a quarter of all drivers have experienced a near-miss on a country road, with one in twenty having first-hand experience of a collision.

Road safety minister Robert Goodwill said "Most people don't know that motorists are nearly 11 times more likely to die in an accident on a country road than on a motorway. On average, three people die each day on country roads and these are needless tragedies."

North Yorkshire has 5,000 kilometres of rural roads, and while casualty figures have been falling since 2000, fatalities on rural roads continue to represent a majority of road deaths in the county, even though more miles are travelled in total in the county's cities and towns and on its motorways and dual carriageways.

Gareth Dadd, the council's executive member for highways, said the local authority recognised that many more drivers came to grief on the rural network. “We have run effective campaigns for many years targeted at drivers at all levels to promote responsible and safe driving in rural areas,” said councillor Dadd. “A death on our roads is a death too many. Therefore, we do all we can to teach people about the specific dangers of the rural network."

One campaign, Drive Alive, takes road safety officers into the county's schools to run workshops with 16 and 17-year-olds to raise awareness of hazards on rural roads. It also covers safe speeds, passenger power, peer pressure and first aid. During the workshops, students are talked to by David Warin, a retired headteacher, and his wife, Janet, whose son, Daniel, died in a single vehicle crash when his car left the road. The Warins recount how this has affected them and their family and talk to young people about what they can do to avoid such an incident.

The county council also runs refresher courses for older drivers and an Enhanced Pass Plus scheme for newly qualified drivers. This offers in-depth discussion on the many factors that can have an impact on driving - including the specific challenges of driving in the countryside.

Deputy chief constable Tim Madgwick said the local constabulary was giving the Think! campaign its full support. “The area attracts tourists, cyclists and motorcyclists as well as being home to many rural and agricultural businesses which need the road network to sustain their livelihood. It is vital that all road users know their responsibilities and drive according to the speed limits, road conditions, weather and traffic situations. We have seen too many lives lost and people seriously injured through split second lapses in concentration or sheer disregard for the road or other road users.”

The new campaign features TV adverts that use computer graphics to reveal the hidden dangers that could be around the next bend and to demonstrate that driving at a speed appropriate to the nature of the road, which is not necessarily the same as the speed limit, is key to avoiding accidents.

To find out more about the Think! campaign and to watch the TV advert, visit the Think! website.

Credit: quotes obtained by the Rural Services Network.