Skip to main content

Serious injury lawyer's concern as safety report highlights 14% increase in rural road deaths

The insurer NFU Mutual has published its Rural Road Safety Report for 2023.  

It's concerning that this records an ongoing disproportionate number of lives being lost in traffic accidents on countryside roads each year. The report confirms that sadly more than 1,000 people lost their lives on rural roads in 2022 - the year the statistics relate to - and that thousands more were injured. It's reported that rural road deaths increased by 14% to a four-year high in 2022. 

Disproportionate danger of rural roads

The report shows that there is a disproportionate danger when using rural roads in comparison to urban roads.  It's noted that on average one in every 31 incidents on rural roads resulted in death in comparison to one in every 120 incidents on urban roads. Incidents on rural roads are around four times more likely to lead to a fatality. 

Who are road users most at risk?

Motorcyclists are considered the most at-risk within the vulnerable road users group with twice as many motorcyclists losing their lives on rural roads than urban roads. The total figure recorded is an increase of 11% from the previous statistics in 2021. 

Further it's noted that pedestrian deaths on rural roads also increased in 2022 with one pedestrian losing their life every three days in 2022.  This is an increase in the number of total fatalities by 11% from the previous year.

The top safety concerns for rural road users 

A survey published in November 2023 revealed the top concerns for those using rural roads were blind corners, narrow roads, impatient drivers and people breaking the speed limit.  

The survey also revealed that over a third of those responding had concerns about navigating vulnerable road users and a quarter registered concerns about dealing with agricultural traffic.  A total of 47% of those who responded were in favour of reduced speed limits on rural roads to improve road safety. 

Planned countryside roads code

NFU has announced a code for countryside roads and are inviting members of the public and experts to contact them to feed into the code during its planning stages. It's hoped that the code for countryside roads once finalised will help contribute towards safer driving on rural roads. 

Whilst the report focuses on the disproportionate number of fatalities occurring on rural roads, results from other surveys have identified a lack of knowledge of the changes to the Highway Code in 2022. This included changes designed to improve road safety for vulnerable road users which includes cyclists, horse riders, pedestrians and motorcyclists. 

It is important that drivers who are using rural roads, familiarise themselves with the Highway Code and the relevant rules in relation to vulnerable road users.  

Be aware of hazards

Road users also need to be aware of the hazards which can be more prevalent or specific to rural roads and take these hazards into consideration whilst driving. Hazards can include reduced visibility of the road due to the layout of the rural roads which can include sharp, sudden or blind corners, high hedges and changes in the width of lanes. 

A hazard is often not experienced until the last minute and unless driving behaviour is appropriate for the roads and challenges ahead, reaction time can reduce. Hidden hazards can include mud on the road, unexpected slow moving vehicles, herds of animals or vulnerable road users such as cyclists, horse riders and pedestrians which can be obscured due to the road layout. 


It is important that there is a focus on the awareness of the challenges faced when using rural roads to improve road safety and to reduce the number of incidents and fatalities. I regularly assist people who have been injured in collisions on rural roads and the contributing factors to may incidents is the fact that motorists have come across such hazards regularly encountered on rural roads and have been unable to respond quickly enough. Many of the clients who I have represented have been involved in a collision which could have been avoided if driving was commensurate to the conditions of the rural road. 

I welcome all initiatives designed to raise awareness of the hazards and challenges faced when using our rural road network and to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities.

Find out more about Irwin Mitchell's expertise in helping people or families affected by road collisions at our dedicated road traffic accidents claims section.