New figures have revealed that country roads are the deadliest, with an average of three people dying on country roads every day last year, including 12 in Northumberland.
In total, 1,040 people were killed and 9,051 seriously injured on country roads in 2014, with a third (348) of fatalities occurring on a bend, according to statistics from the Department for Transport (DfT).
The figures for the North East show that 36 people lost their lives in 2014 with a further 321 seriously injured on rural roads, while in Northumberland, there were 12 deaths and 123 people seriously injured.
In spite of this, nearly a third of road users in the North East (31 per cent) admit to braking too late on bends and nearly half (48 per cent) claimed to have swerved to avoid something in the road.
The problem is most acute among young drivers, with a third confessing to braking too late before a bend and more than one in ten admitting to ‘taking the racing line’ by crossing into the opposite side of the road to take a turn faster. Young drivers are also the most likely age group to overtake on a bend without a clear road ahead.
In response, THINK! is today launching a new country roads campaign. THINK! has partnered with a farmer to turn potential road hazards into impossible-to-ignore warning signs. Helpful Hazards features animals and vehicles sprayed with helpful signs prompting drivers to slow down, anticipate hazards and brake before the bend, not on it.
Road Safety Minister, Andrew Jones, said: “Every injury and death on our roads is a tragedy and that is why the new THINK! country road campaign is so important. We want the public to anticipate potential hazards on the road when driving in the countryside, to watch their speed and take care when approaching a bend.”
Former England rugby player and countryside resident Phil Vickery is supporting the campaign. He said: “As someone who lives in the countryside, I do a lot of driving on winding country roads every day. I’m often shocked at the lack of care other drivers take when driving around blind bends. Both my wife and I have been involved in several near misses and minor incidents so this is something very close to my heart. You never know what might be around the corner; from cyclists, horse riders and wildlife to debris and slow-moving vehicles, we all have a duty of care to be respectful to all users of the countryside and keep each other safe.”
British Touring Car champion James Cole is also backing the THINK! campaign. He said: “I’m concerned that so many people take the racing line on bends. It’s one thing to do that in a racetrack environment but quite another to do it with no knowledge of what is around the corner. Take more care, anticipate hazards, stay in control and give yourself more time to react by braking before the bend, not on it.”
Shaun Spiers, chief executive of the Campaign to Protect Rural England, added: “Our country roads and lanes are for everyone. They are for drivers, walkers, riders, cyclists and, of course, farmers. They are often beautiful, lined by high hedges and dry stone walls. They are part of rural life.
"But they also account for the majority of fatal crashes. Even if you think you know a road like the back of your hand, you can never be sure what’s round the corner. So let’s keep our country roads safe for everyone too. Please take care, and keep your speed down.”