Driving on country roads can be great, with spectacular scenery on offer and more of a sense of freedom that busier, urban roads offer. However, they can be among the most dangerous of roads – especially at night.

Motoring Assist explains how three quarters of all road traffic accidents happen on country roads. On that note, we thought we would put together a guide to help you to drive safely on country roads at night.

Speed limit

Most country roads and lanes tend to have a speed limit of up to 60 miles per hour. The idea of this maximum limit is that you can drive at that speed, as long as you know the road is safe. But how does anyone know if a road is safe? You may know the road like the back of your hand, but you don’t know what is waiting around the corner – especially on country roads, where farm animals might be loose in the road, there could be a slow tractor, cyclists/pedestrians, or even a broken down car.

It is always best to travel at a speed you think is safe to drive at, once you have assessed the road ahead – and this speed may be considerably lower than the maximum. Plus, you have to drive at a speed that allows you to stop in time, within the distance you can clearly see ahead. At night time, this should result in you lowering your speed as you cannot see as far as you can during the day.

Slow moving vehicles

You may encounter a slow moving vehicle, such as a tractor, several times on a single journey alone. Think! suggest not to action an overtaking manoeuvre on these roads especially, because you do not know what is coming in the other direction. This is in part  thanks to undulating roads, blind bends, overgrown hedges and verges and that nighttime visibility.

If it is essential to overtake a slow moving vehicle, then do so when you are certain it is viable and safe to do so. The worst thing to do is take a chance and “wing it” – make sure you have read the road ahead as best as you can before maneuvering. Overtaking also requires you to stay within the speed limit; if you can’t, then you shouldn’t start an overtaking manoeuvre.

Sharing the road

Country roads tend to be narrower and often do not have a broken white line in the middle of them. As mentioned before, you may well have to share the road with animals, tractors, pedestrians and cyclists, which may require you to drive slower and in some cases pull over, or even reverse into a layby to let oncoming vehicles pass by.

Keep an eye out for road signs. Normally on country roads you’ll see them with animal warnings, helping to make you aware that these animals are likely to be found using the road too. Especially deer, as they tend to jump out onto the road and catch you off guard. This could cause you accidentally collide with a creature, or your initial reaction may be to swerve, which could lead to you having an accident with an oncoming vehicle or see you go off the road.

Weather

During the winter, some country roads aren’t gritted. This can lead to ice and black ice forming on the road, causing a hazard which can result in you possibly ending up in an accident.

If it has been raining, the roads will become slippery, as they can during the autumn when wet leaves fall onto the road, causing your tyres to lose grip. Driving sensibly, reducing your speed and increasing your distance from the vehicle in front of you will help you when driving in hazardous conditions.

Driving style

By adapting your driving style to the roads you are driving on it will greatly help you to stay safe – and not just in an emergency.

By not driving up to or over the speed limit, it will help you to adapt quickly for unexpected situations, as well as giving you a smoother ride. This is especially true around corners, and roads with sharp bends.

Lighting

Make sure all the lights on your car are working perfectly, this includes: side lights, headlights, full beam, fog lights and brake lights. Not only is having all your lights in good working condition a necessity, but it is also a legal requirement.

Driving at night on a country road with only one headlight working, for example, can cause a distraction to any oncoming traffic. They could potentially think you are a motorbike, so do not need to give such a wide berth on the lane, leading to an accident.

When driving at night it is important to not distract other road users also. You could distract them by leaving your main beams on; these need to be dimmed when passing other road users. It is also distracting for other drivers when you have your interior light on. Keep this light off – if you need to use it, then pull over in a safe place and use it while the car is stationary. Never use it when you are driving.
The next time you are driving down a country road, remember these handy tips to help you have a safer journey. If your car is fitted with one of our telematics boxes then it’s a good idea to try and avoid driving at night where possible. Records show that accidents are more likely to occur between 11pm and 4pm, so if you limit the amount you drive between these hours then you can earn more Bonus Miles on your policy, as well as reduce your risk of accidents.