Country roads can be very dangerous. The individual risk of being killed as a driver in a traffic accident is highest on two-way traffic roads with one lane in each direction with a speed limit of 90 or 100 km/h.
When a two-way traffic road with a lot of traffic and a high speed limit is made meeting-free (for example with a central barrier), mortality is estimated to decrease by 80-90%.
Country roads with high speed limits and oncoming traffic are statistically the most dangerous roads
In order to minimise the risk of having an accident when driving on country roads, it is important to keep to speed limits, to drive defensively and to be aware of the most common country driving hazards.
Speed blindness (also known as velocitization) does not mean that your vision is impaired due to high speeds, but that you think that you are driving slower than you actually are.
Speed blindness usually occurs after driving on a country road, motorway or clearway for a while. You become speed blind as you get used to the high speed, which you experience as normal, comfortable and lower than it actually is.
Speed blindness means that you think you are driving slower than you actually are
The risk of becoming speed blind is greatest on straight, wide and smooth motorways with little traffic while driving through open landscapes.
The biggest risk with speed blindness is that you underestimate how long it will take to lower your speed or stop the car completely. This can, for example, lead you to drive too fast onto a motorway exit, which may then cause you to drive off the road or misjudge the car's stopping distance and potentially drive into a vehicle ahead.
When you know that the risk of speed blindness is high, you should check the speedometer regularly to ensure that you are maintaining an appropriate speed. This is especially important in situations where you have to slow down or stop the car completely, for example when approaching an exit or a traffic jam. If you do not reduce your speed sufficiently in situations like these you risk causing a serious accident.
If you do not check the speedometer when driving on motorways, you are most likely driving considerably faster than you think
When you drive at high speed, your field of observation becomes narrower and you do not detect movements in the periphery in the usual way, this is called tunnel vision.
A degree of tunnel vision is inevitable at high speeds. In order to counteract the risks associated with the phenomenon, you must actively scan the area alongside the road, well ahead of the car, for potential hazards such as pedestrians or wild animals coming out of the forest.
Tunnel vision means that your field of observation becomes narrower
Tunnel vision can both arise and worsen because of fatigue, alcohol, stress, narcotics, inappropriate medication or diseases such as migraines.
At both major and minor roadworks, it is important that you show consideration for those who work on the road – always pass roadworks at an appropriate speed and with plenty of sideways clearance.
Do not expect that you will be seen or heard as you approach or when you pass. On the other hand, expect that the road surface may be slippery, that a large vehicle may start to reverse without warning or that someone may suddenly step onto the road.
Keep in mind that road workers and operators of road maintenance vehicles are very vulnerable as they cannot keep a constant watch on traffic.
Always pass roadworks with great care
You may overtake road maintenance vehicles on whichever side is most suitable. In other words, you are allowed to pass on both the left and right side.
Remember that it is the driver with the obstacle (for example, a road maintenance vehicle) on his or her side of the road that should stop and give way, if the road is too narrow for two vehicles to proceed at the same time.
Always follow instructions given by flagmen or signal devices. At roadworks, orange road signs and yellow road markings always apply before ordinary road signs and road markings.
Traffic is often temporarily diverted at roadworks. Orange colored arrows indicate which direction of travel applies.
Direction of travel during temporary diversion
In normal cases, asphalt roads provide very good grip. However, when asphalt is newly laid it can become very slippery.
Rain and high heat make newly laid asphalt particularly dangerous. Asphalt consists of a mixture of gravel and oil and before the newly laid asphalt has settled, the oil remains as a slippery surface on top of the gravel. When it rains, rainwater is mixed with the oil which makes the road even more slippery. During hot days, more oil seeps out to the surface, which can make the road extremely slippery.
Newly laid asphalt can be very slippery, especially when it is rainy and sunny
The asphalt slipperiness usually disappears two or three days after the asphalt has been laid, once the oil has been pressed into the gravel by traffic.
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Aquaplaning occurs when a vehicle's tyres are no longer able to divert surface water from their path. This leads to a layer of water building up in front of and under the tyres, effectively "lifting" them and removing their contact with the road. At this point, you will temporarily lose the ability to steer, brake or accelerate. There is always a risk of aquaplaning when it is raining or when there is water on the road for some other reason.
Three factors essentially determine whether a vehicle will aquaplane when driving through surface water: the vehicle's speed, the amount of water on the road and the tyres' tread and width.
Aquaplaning occurs when a vehicle's tyres lose grip on the road due to surface water
The faster you drive through surface water, the higher the risk of aquaplaning. The same applies to the amount of water on the road: the more water there is, the higher the risk of aquaplaning.
On heavily travelled roads, deep so-called ruts can form in the wheel tracks, preventing rainwater from flowing to the side of the road. Water collecting in these ruts greatly increases the risk of aquaplaning.
The tyres' tread plays a decisive part in diverting surface water. If the tread depth is poor, the tyres cannot divert enough water. Wide tyres further increase the risk of aquaplaning.
If your car aquaplanes it becomes impossible to manoeuvre
Factors that increase the risk of aquaplaning:
If you aquaplane, the best course of action is to do as little as possible. Do not turn the wheel suddenly, do not accelerate, do not brake. Keep the front wheels in the direction they were before they began to aquaplane and be prepared for the moment the tyres regain traction.
Riders on horseback are common on both country roads and in densely built-up areas. Regardless of where you encounter riders on horseback, you need to keep in mind that many horses scare easily and that the riders are often young people with little traffic experience.
In some areas it is very common to encounter riders on horseback
Consider the following when passing a rider on horseback:
There are also many different kinds of wildlife on our country roads. You can read about the risks associated with these in the chapters Wildlife accidents and In case of a wildlife accident.
There are warning signs posted well in advance of many of the hazards you may encounter on country roads. They can, for example, warn you of a dangerous curve ahead or a road section where there is a particular risk for animals on or near the road.
Warning signs are always posted well in advance of the hazard
Warning signs are normally posted at the following distances from the hazard the sign warns of:
After passing a warning sign you should adapt your speed and be ready to act.