New driver? Your guide to rural driving

Driving in the countryside is an entirely different experience compared to driving in a city or town, particularly because of the winding roads with hidden bends and hedgerows that can cover any upcoming obstacles. You are also more likely to come across animals and pedestrians on the roads, which can make driving in rural areas that little bit more daunting.

If you are learning to drive, or have just passed your driving test, you may not feel like you are fully ready to brave these roads on your own, especially if you feel like you haven’t covered all elements of driving.

So, with that in mind, here’s our ultimate guide to make sure you feel safe and confident in your car when it comes to driving in rural areas.

Watch out for debris in the road

The benefit of rural driving is, of course, the stunning scenery that you can encounter along the way. But this can also cause hazards when you’re driving. You could end up facing debris in the road, from farm waste or fallen tree branches. You’ll certainly have experienced this if you’ve ever followed a tractor on these types of roads – which will often leave a trail of mud and hay. The aim here is to drive as smoothly as possible, so this means avoiding any harsh braking, sudden acceleration, excessive steering and maintaining a constant speed where possible.

Due to the nature of rural roads, and the unpredictable British weather, these areas tend to experience flooding in extreme weather conditions. Remember when approaching any body of water in the road, you’ll have no idea how deep it potentially could be or what the road surface is like underneath. If you need to drive through a flooded road, go as slow as possible, and be prepared to have to reverse. But if it seems too deep, avoid that road and try another route. Always check your brakes after immediately driving through water and once you are no longer in the flooded area.

Decreased visibility

One of the biggest differences between driving in the countryside compared to other areas, is the lack of street lighting at night. If you are expected to drive on rural roads in the dark, make sure your headlights are clean before you start your journey. Also, check that you know where your full beams are in terms of the car you’re driving, and that you understand how to turn them on, so you can use them appropriately on the darkest roads.

Even when you’re driving in the daylight, you may have to battle with low sun and brilliant sunshine, and this is where you visor comes into play. Use your visor and adjust your mirrors to minimise glare. Sunglasses are also effective when driving rural roads in the spring and summer.

Although in the countryside the roads tend to be less busy, you may be sharing the space with motorcyclists who could just be around the next corner, or pedestrians in the road due to a lack of footpath. Narrow bends and blind corners are common on rural roads, so if you have restricted vision of what’s ahead, keep your speed to down to avoid potential hazards.

Wildlife and livestock

When driving in the countryside, it’s a given that you’d be amongst fields of wonderful animals, making up part of the beautiful surroundings of your trip. But this also means that you are more likely to encounter wildlife wandering into the road. For small wildlife, it is important not to swerve to avoid it, as this is not only a dangerous move for you and your passengers, but also for any oncoming traffic as you could suddenly veer into them. If you encounter a deer, there is potential for extreme danger if it hits the car and comes through the windscreen. You should brake hard to instantly reduce your speed, and sound your horn to try and startle the deer into running out of the road.

On the other hand, and a less shocking instance, you may have your route interrupted by an organised herd of animals, as the local farmer takes them to and from their field and back again. Here, patience is key. Come to a complete stop and take the time to enjoy your surroundings and the beauty of the rural road whilst you wait for the animals to cross.  

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