Rural roads high on fatality list

The Department for Transport is considering cutting the current 60mph speed limit on rural roads because of the high number of deaths on country lanes.

But safety experts have also urged tractor drivers to play their part by pulling over and letting other traffic pass during the busy summer months.

It has emerged that some 64% of all road fatalities take place in rural areas.

A survey by insurer Direct Line has indicated that one of the main causes of accidents on rural roads is speeding, with over a quarter of rural drivers admitting to exceeding the 60mph limit.

Spokeswoman Emma Holyer said the 60mph speed limit was too fast for narrow rural lanes.

Motorists travelling too fast would be unable to stop if they rounded a bend and found themselves in a queue of traffic behind a slow moving tractor, she added.

“This time of the year country lanes are at their busiest.

The majority of motorists on the country roads in summer are likely to be unfamiliar with them and they can be extremely dangerous.”

But it is not just car drivers who are at risk.

Tractor drivers who hold up traffic may fall foul of laws against vehicles being driven without reasonable consideration for other road users.

A spokesman for rural insurers NFU Mutual said the company advised drivers of tractors and other slow-moving farm vehicles to pull in when safe to do so to let following traffic pass.

“The main cause of accidents we see is when tractors turn right into a field and a following motorbike car or van chooses this moment to overtake, hitting the tractor or implement.”

But former traffic policeman Andrew McMahon said:

“There are all sorts of complications about what seems to be a simple rule.

For one, it all depends on the interpretation of ‘reasonable consideration for other road users’.”

Mr McMahon, who is now a legal consultant, said the number of vehicles behind a tractor was less relevant than the opportunity to let them pass.

Where there was no opportunity to pull over safely, the only option may be to continue with the journey.

“In theory, a tractor driver could commit an offence when holding up only one vehicle if he constantly ignores opportunities to pull over.

But equally it would be impractical to constantly pull over at every opportunity.”