Driving on rural roads – the issues

Devon & Cornwall Police are holding events highlighting the unique issues of Devon and Cornwall’s extensive rural road network. Devon has the greatest density of roads of all types, at 8,098.6 miles, of any single county in Great Britain. Cornwall has a similarly dense and complex network of 4,616.9 miles of roads.

Special Constable Adam Bush from the Devon & Cornwall Police rural engagement team said: “The rural road network within Devon and Cornwall provides a unique environment, with narrow winding roads surrounded by stone walls and tall hedges, as well as open roads cutting through unfenced moorland.

“It also has a variety of users including agricultural, commuter, industrial and leisure traffic, the volume of which rises sharply in the summer due to the influx of tourists, often all sharing the roads at the same time.”

At greatest risk in this environment are motorcyclists, cyclists, horse riders, young and inexperienced drivers, drivers who are unfamiliar with rural roads – the aforementioned tourists – and livestock on moors and in transit from field to field.

Special Constable Bush continued: “We cannot emphasise enough that with all these different road users in the mix, mutual respect and consideration is vital. We want to raise awareness of the risks on our rural roads, most of which are unintentional and all of which are avoidable.

“In the unfortunate event that a collision does occur, due to the remote nature of a large proportion of our rural road network response times by emergency services are naturally longer than urban incidents, which can lead to greater risk to life.”

Hazards on the rural roads of Devon and Cornwall include heavy plant and farm machinery, works traffic such as quarry vehicles, milk tankers and livestock trucks, and the sometimes unavoidable deposition of mud and debris on the road.

Along with all of this are the Fatal Five predominant driving behaviours that lead to death and serious injury on any road in the country: excess or inappropriate speed, not wearing a seatbelt, careless of inconsiderate driving, drink driving and using a mobile phone or other device handheld.

Present from the police will be the rural engagement team, the Alliance Special Constables roads policing team and representatives of the Bikesafe and Speed Watch initiatives, all supported by staff from the Office of the Police and Crime Commissioner.

Police and Crime Commissioner Alison Hernandez said: “We are fortunate to live in such a beautiful area and having access to areas of outstanding natural beauty such as Dartmoor on our doorstep. “When accessing these areas we must respect other road users to make for a safe environment for all who visit or work in the area.

“Unfortunately, rural roads and lanes see a higher rate of collisions and injuries than in more urban areas. Using country roads provides particular challenges which we should all be aware of.

“This event is aimed at raising awareness, providing advice and promoting respect and consideration among all road users of the particular challenges posed by driving in areas such as Dartmoor and the extensive rural network of roads and lanes across the two counties.”

External partners include the Devon and Somerset Fire and Rescue Service with its Honest Truth driving simulator, Dartmoor Rangers, Institute of Advanced Motorists, Devon Advanced Motorcyclists, British Horse Society, Brake road safety charity and Dartmoor livestock protection officer.

Andrew Watson, Head of Recreation & Access for Dartmoor National Park Authority said: “We want people to come and enjoy the National Park and its beautiful landscape, but we ask that all who use Dartmoor’s roads drive responsibly, within the 40mph mandatory speed limit, taking into account road and weather conditions.  Dartmoor’s moorland roads are remote, many are unfenced and motorists should expect the unexpected and drive accordingly.”

More about Speed Watch: www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/advice/on-the-road/speed-watch

More about Bikesafe: www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/advice/on-the-road/safer-motorcycling/bikesafe

More about The Honest Truth: www.thehonesttruth.co.uk

More about driving on country roads: www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/advice/on-the-road/driving-on-country-roads

More about what to do if you see large amounts of mud on the road: www.devon-cornwall.police.uk/advice/on-the-road/mud-on-the-road

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