Road Safety Week: Beware the Dangers on Rural Roads

Date published: 17 November 2019


As Road Safety Week (18 – 24 November 2019) gets underway all road users are reminded of the hazards we face when travelling on our rural roads.

Road Safety Week 2019

The Department for Infrastructure is collaborating with road safety partners in the emergency services and the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster to urge everyone to be aware of the particular vulnerabilities we all face when we travel.

Katrina Godfrey, Permanent Secretary of the Department said:

“Keeping road users safe as we travel is a key priority for the Department throughout the year but, with two thirds of people killed or seriously injured in road collisions here occurring on rural roads, the focus for this week is rural road safety. 

“Whether we are walking, cycling or driving, we need to be mindful that our country roads, while beautiful, do present hidden dangers.

“This week especially we are reminding all road users that rural roads may seem safe due to their lower traffic flow, but they are deadlier than we think.  Higher speeds, hidden dips and twisty roads reduce the distance that drivers can see ahead giving less time to react and resulting in more severe impacts.

“When travelling we should not take risks with our safety or the safety of others.”

The Department alongside its road safety partners is reminding us that when driving, we need to be on the lookout for people with whom we share the road – when we cannot see ahead, always assume that there may well be someone walking, cycling or on horseback around the corner. Take extra care when overtaking and pay particular attention at junctions, when emerging and turning right. It may seem obvious but expecting the unexpected can help us stay safe, especially if we suddenly encounter mud on the road, animals or slow-moving farm machinery.

If we are cycling, walking or horse-riding, we need to ensure we help ourselves to be seen by others by wearing bright, contrasting clothing by day and ideally reflective at night.  Remember, if out walking, use footpaths where available and always walk on the right-hand side facing the oncoming traffic.

Assistant Chief Constable Alan Todd said: “While only one third of collisions occur on rural roads, the severity of these crashes, which are often caused by excessive speed and inattention, means they account for two thirds of the deaths and over half of the serious injuries that occur throughout Northern Ireland.

“With our significant rural road network, longer hours of darkness and the recent arrival of winter weather, drivers must modify their driving to cope with winter conditions. In particular, by reducing their speed. Just because a road may have a 60mph limit, the road surface could be icy or retaining surface water that makes it unsafe and inappropriate to travel at the posted speed limit.

“Pedestrians and cyclists should wear bright clothing, reflective jackets or armbands where possible to ensure they can be seen by other road users.  Finally we remind everyone to be careful that headphones don’t distract you from your surroundings and the actions of other people.

“Police will continue to robustly enforce the law and we are determined to make Northern Ireland’s roads safer, but everyone needs to play their part and take personal responsibility for road safety.”

Alan Walmsley, Assistant Chief Fire & Rescue Officer, Northern Ireland Fire & Rescue Service (NIFRS) said:  “So far this year our Firefighters have attended over 600 road traffic collisions and rescued over 440 people trapped in their vehicles. Sadly they witness first-hand the carnage on our roads and the lives completely destroyed as a consequence of irresponsible road user behaviour. 

“It is a fact that all of these collisions were potentially avoidable and I would like to remind everyone to reduce your speed, wear your seatbelt and eliminate high risk behaviours, be it on rural or urban roads.

“We all have a responsibility to do all we can to ease the pain, loss and suffering to individuals, families and communities caused by road traffic collisions. Please respect other road users to help share the road to zero.” 

Robert Sowney, Interim Director of Operations with the Northern Ireland Ambulance Service, appealed to all road users to exercise great caution as winter bites and days become darker leaving conditions more treacherous. He said: “Many of the, almost 5000, Road Traffic Collisions attended by our crews are in rural areas where, as the nights get darker, it becomes more difficult to pick out vulnerable road users such as pedestrians and cyclists. We would encourage everyone to share the responsibility for using the road and consider the possibility that someone else might be around the next corner or coming out of the next junction. With trees shedding their leaves combined with heavy rain, skid risks will increase and drivers should factor that in to their driving behaviours to suit the conditions. We should all make sure that, particularly in the run up to Christmas, that nothing we do will leave a family mourning the loss of, or serious injury to, a loved one.”

Zita McNaugher, President of the Young Farmers’ Clubs of Ulster said: “Road Safety Week is an extremely important campaign for highlighting the dangers for both drivers and those walking on roads.  Many rural communities have been left devastated by the loss of lives as a result of serious collisions.  As young people we have a responsibility within our communities to remember the speed limit is a limit and not a target. Our hope is that by highlighting the risks of dangerous driving, members will be reminded to be more cautious and ultimately reduce the number of potential collisions taking place.”

During Road Safety Week, the Department, alongside our road safety partners in the PSNI, NI Fire and Rescue Service and the NI Ambulance Service, will work to raise awareness of our personal responsibility to behave appropriately, every day, on every journey.

Notes to editors: 

Road Safety Week runs from 18 to 24 November 2019

  1. A total of 15,012 people have been killed on roads in Northern Ireland since deaths were first recorded in 1931.
  2. A total of 46 people have lost their lives on the road this year.  This compares to 51 at the same time last year and 57 for 2017. (figures correct as of Friday 15 Nov 2019)
  3. The Northern Ireland Rural Road Analysis can be found here:
  4. The most common principal causation factors for KSI collisions on rural roads between 2014 and 2018 was ‘inattention or attention diverted’ (222 KSI collisions, 13%), followed by ‘excessive speed having regard to conditions’ (205 KSI collisions, 12%) and ‘Wrong course/position’ (199 KSI collisions, 12%).
  5. The majority (73%) of single vehicle KSI collisions occurred on rural roads with single vehicle collisions representing over a third of the number of collisions occurring on country roads. KSI casualties amongst young people and excessive speed were overrepresented amongst single vehicle collisions on rural roads.
  6. Forty-two percent of KSI collisions on rural roads occurred at a junction with most occurring at a T or staggered junction.
  7. In terms of responsibility, four fifths (83%) of rural road KSI collisions were attributed to a driver or rider with careless driving accounting for approximately two thirds (66%) in which a driver/rider was at fault. Drivers aged 17 to 24 accounted for the greatest proportion responsible by age group (30%).
  8. Saturday (306, 18%) and Sunday (314, 18%) had the most fatal and serious rural collisions by day of the week with a relatively high proportion occurring between midnight and 4am. Three in ten weekday collisions occurred between 3pm and 7pm with Friday afternoon between 4pm and 6pm seeing the greatest numbers (25 each with 50 in this two hour window).
  9. In 1931 there were 114 road deaths and this number increased over the years before peaking in 1972 with 372 deaths. The number of road deaths then gradually reduced during the late 1970s and the 1980s before levelling off with around 150 deaths per year during the 1990s. Road deaths then decreased during the 2000s dropping from 148 fatalities in 2001 to 115 in 2009 before the numbers virtually halved in 2010 (55 fatalities) with similar numbers recorded in 2011 (59 fatalities). Before 2010, road deaths had never dropped below 100. The lowest figure of 48 deaths was recorded in 2012.
  10. Share The Road to Zero is a huge road safety community programme with one aim – zero road deaths on our roads.  More than 20,000 people here have pledged to Share the Road to Zero. Pledge her
  11. The Highway Code is available to down load free here  All media queries should be directed to the Department for Infrastructure Press Office on 028 90540007 or email Out of hours please contact the duty press officer on 028 9037 8110.

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