Survey highlights overtaking risk on rural roads

Brake, the road safety charity, and Direct Line insurance are urging drivers to hang back, slow down and chill out on country roads to avoid tragedies, as a survey reveals the extent of risky, aggressive overtaking.

An alarming one in seven drivers (14 per cent) report that in the past year they have been forced by another driver’s overtaking to swerve, pull over or brake to avoid a collision.

Brake and Direct Line’s survey also found that, in the past year:

  • Four in five drivers (80 per cent) have felt endangered by an overtaking manoeuvre, either of their own, their driver, or another vehicle.
  • Almost all drivers (94 per cent) have witnessed a risky overtaking manoeuvre, and more than half (53 per cent) see them monthly or more often.
  • One in five drivers (18 per cent) admit they have themselves overtaken another vehicle when they were not certain if there were any hidden vehicles or hazards they could have hit during the manoeuvre.

When it comes to owning up to risky overtaking, it was most common among male and young drivers, with 21 per cent of men and two in five (39 per cent) 17-24 year olds admitting doing so when they weren’t sure the road ahead was clear. The figures for speeding paint a similar picture, with almost half of male drivers (44 per cent) and more than half of young drivers (17-24; 56 per cent) doing over 60mph on single carriageway country roads, compared with less than a third (31 per cent) of women and two in five drivers (37 per cent) overall. This tallies with the statistical evidence that young male drivers are involved in many more crashes than older and female drivers.

In another recent Brake and Direct Line survey, risky overtaking came fourth on a list of UK drivers’ road safety concerns, cited by two thirds (66 per cent) of respondents. Overtaking is a particular problem on single carriageway country roads, where high speeds and blind bends often make it impossible to be sure the road ahead is clear, creating a risk of devastating head-on collisions. This is one of the reasons country roads are, per mile travelled, the most dangerous for all types of road user, accounting for more than half (52 per cent) of fatal crashes on UK roads.

Brake is urging all drivers to think twice before overtaking on country roads, and only to do so if absolutely essential, for instance to overtake an extremely slow moving vehicle, and only if it can be done on a long, clear stretch and without speeding. Otherwise, drivers should hang back and relax.

Julie Townsend, deputy chief executive, Brake, said: “Overtaking on single carriageway country roads is a huge risk, and one that ultimately just isn’t worth it. Why risk it and rush? You could cause a devastating, high speed, head on crash that ends lives and ruins others. In spite of this, a significant minority are still taking the risk and performing this aggressive and selfish manoeuvre. We’re urging all drivers to avoid overtaking on country roads unless absolutely essential and 100 per cent safe – that doesn’t include if you’re feeling impatient because someone in front is driving a few mph slower than you want to. In those situations, cool-headed and responsible drivers hang back and relax. We’re also urging drivers to stay well within speed limits, and slow right down for villages, bends, brows and bad weather, to protect themselves and others.”

Rob Miles, director of motor at Direct Line, commented: “People die on rural roads in the UK every day and many of these fatal crashes could be prevented. Our own data suggests that young drivers and their passengers are even more likely to be killed on this type of road. Drivers should remember that patience is a virtue when it comes to deciding to overtake another vehicle, as it could be a life saver.”


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