Five common causes of narrow lane collisions

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The number of claims we have handled relating to multi vehicle collisions have doubled since the lockdown restrictions were lifted. Claims Technician, Naomi Clements, outlines some of the main reasons why rural roads are a hot spot for accidents.

Many journeys here in the South West involve driving on single track country lanes and, as a rural insurer, we frequently deal with claims resulting from accidents on these roads. In July, we handled an average of more than 50 percent more multi vehicle collision claims per day than we did during lockdown.

Here are the five main factors behind the claims resulting from narrow lane collisions.

  1. Going too fast on a bend

Narrow road collisions typically occur on a bend, in places where there is not enough room for two vehicles to pass. While the national speed limit of 60 miles per hour applies to most rural roads, single track lanes are generally not suited to such high speeds.

Motorists often drive too fast on rural roads and are then unable to stop in time for an oncoming vehicle. According to road safety charity Brake, one in three drivers admits to driving too fast on country roads.

When we deal with the aftermath of these accidents, it is almost always the case that each driver blames the other for going too quickly and failing to stop. Traditionally, it has been notoriously difficult to settle these claims because there are often no witnesses, which has often meant settling on a 50/50 split liability basis, regardless of who was at fault. This is one of the reasons why we encourage our Members to invest in a dash cam as this technology can show exactly what happened and identify who was at fault.

  1. Poor visibility

Blind bends are one of the reasons why country lanes can be dangerous and certain weather conditions can exacerbate the problem. Heavy rain, snow, fog, or low sun can all affect drivers’ visibility and weather conditions can change very quickly. High hedges and walls can also reduce visibility. Drivers should adjust their speed according to the conditions and be aware of their stopping distance.  The RAC advises drivers that when travelling in an average car at 60 miles per hour the stopping distance, in dry conditions, will be approximately 73 metres, which is equivalent to 18 car lengths.  However, the stopping distance will increase if the weather or road conditions are poor. 

  1. Drivers not expecting farm vehicles

While many of the claims are the result of a collision between two cars, we also deal with incidents involving tractors or other farm vehicles. These accidents can often be more serious for motorists because of the increased size and weight of agricultural machinery. During harvesting season, we can expect to see more of these vehicles out on the roads.

One fairly common accident we deal with is when a tractor has pulled out of a farm entrance and collides with a third party vehicle. Motorists should be alert to this and ensure they would be able to stop in such an event.

From 1 September until late March, drivers should also be prepared for tractor-mounted rotary flail hedge cutters on rural roads. These are large and very slow-moving vehicles and accidents sometimes occur when drivers become impatient and attempt to squeeze past them.

  1. Mud on the roads

Mud on the roads is often caused by farm vehicles carrying mud on their tyres, but during wet weather, runoff from fields is also a problem. If mud is left to build up, it can become engrained in the road surface, making it very slippery and leave motorcyclists particularly vulnerable.

While it is the farmers’ responsibility to clear up any mud they have transferred onto the roads, motorists should always be alert to the possibility of slippery conditions. That means driving at an appropriate speed and taking particular care on bends and when driving past farm and field entrances.

  1. Complacency

According to the RAC Foundation, 60 per cent of all fatal motoring accidents occur on country roads and three people on average die each day on rural roads. Despite this, many people become complacent if they regularly drive on narrow lanes.

The vast majority of the narrow lane collision claims involve drivers who live locally and are very familiar with the road, on which the accident occurred. Drivers can become careless and overconfident on the roads they drive every day. However well you know a road, you can never be sure of other road users.

When driving on rural roads, be prepared to encounter other cars, farm vehicles, cyclists, motorbikes, animals, or pedestrians at any time. Allow extra time for your journey so you are not rushing and are less likely to become impatient if you are delayed. However well you know the road, remember that you have no control over other drivers’ behaviour.

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