New survey reveals rural overtaking figuresHalf of motorists say they overtake on rural roads

01 February 2011

Speeding on a rural road

47% of people admit to overtaking at speed on rural roads

A new survey conducted by road safety charity Brake and insurer Direct Line, has found that just under half of all drivers admit to overtaking at speeds above the national speed limit on single-carriageway rural roads.

Out of the 942 drivers surveyed, 47% admitted speeding at over 60mph to overtake on country roads at least once in the last twelve months, with 23% confessing doing this on a monthly basis.

More alarmingly, one in eight surveyed said they overtook when they couldn’t see what was coming in the opposite direction.

Brake conducted the survey and issued the results to raise awareness of the dangers of overtaking and head-on collisions.

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A third of road deaths on single-carriageway rural roads

Aftermath of a head-on car crash

The risk of death in a head-on collision at 60mph is 90%

Brake says drivers continue to have a false sense of security on rural roads, and think driving at speed on these roads is acceptable.

According to the Department for Transport’s (DfT) Reported Road Casualties figures for 2009, drivers are much more likely to die on a rural road than any other type of road, with speed and overtaking a key factor in causing deaths.

In fact, 749 deaths occurred on single carriageway roads with a speed limit of 60mph in Britain in 2009 – a third of the total road deaths in the country.

According to another DfT study, around a third of these crashes are caused by ‘exceeding the speed limit’ and/or ‘travelling too fast for the conditions’ according to police records.

Ellen Booth, Brake’s campaigns officer, said: “It’s high time we tackle this irresponsible and downright dangerous love of speed on our roads. Speeding down a country road isn’t the epitome of freedom; it’s the epitome of stupidity. Drivers who overtake at speed on country roads aren’t just risking their own lives – they are selfishly endangering their passengers and anyone coming the other way.”

Young driver about to have a crash

Crashes on rural roads commonly involve younger drivers

Research by the DfT in 2009 found the risk of dying in a head-on collision involving two cars travelling at 60mph is around 90%. Even at 50mph, the risk of death is still as high as 65%.

And according to Direct Line, this type of accident is common among young drivers.

Andy Goldby, Director of Motor Underwriting at Direct Line, said: “Two people die on single carriageway roads every day, and these deaths could be prevented. Our own data suggests that young drivers and their passengers are even more likely to die on this type of road. Drivers should remember that patience is a virtue when it comes to deciding to overtake another vehicle at speed, as it could be a life saver.”

Brake: Reduce single carriageway speed limit to 50mph or lower

On the back of these results, Brake is calling for the Government to act to tackle the issue of drivers speeding and overtaking irresponsibly on rural roads.

The road safety charity’s recommendation is to reduce the default speed limit on single carriageway roads to 50mph or lower, with lower limits enforced on historically high-risk sections of road.

There are also calls for an improvement in speed limit enforcement, including using average speed cameras and campaigns to raise awareness.

Until the Government acts, Brake suggests drivers don’t risk overtaking on rural roads unless overtaking slow-moving vehicles like tractors.

If you do choose to overtake, the road should be straight and clear, and you should give yourself enough room to overtake without having to exceed the speed limit.


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