If you're used to suburban or city settings when you're behind the wheel, then countryside drives might be a cause for concern. With winding roads, passing cattle and a new set of rural rules to contend with, driving in the countryside can be a challenge for even the most experienced urban drivers.
To keep you safe on your staycations and road trips this summer, we'll guide you through what to expect from country drives and how to cope when you hit the open road.
Compared to city streets, country roads can be much windier and narrower, making it hard to see what's around oncoming bends. That means pedestrians, cyclists, horse riders and other vehicles can turn out of side roads and take you by surprise.
When approaching a bend, slow down well before you get to it; this will allow you to stop in the event of any hazards emerging around the corner. By waiting to brake until you’re on the bend, you won't be in full control.
Pro tip: Use tree lines, telegraph poles and hedges as a way of tracking where the road is going.
Roads often lack pavements too, so be mindful of pedestrians, cyclists and riders passing either side of you while you're on the road.
You might even have to drive on dirt roads at certain times. If so, keep an eye on your speed and stopping distance; your car will respond differently on these types of surfaces.
When you're used to driving on well-lit city streets, it’s surprising to see how dark it is out in the sticks. For night-time driving in the country, keep your headlights on full beam, but be sure to dip them if you see another car.
Additionally, keep an eye on your speed. Hedgerows, dry stone walls and fences can come into view quickly, especially on unfamiliar roads. Wild animals like deer may also surprise, potentially forcing you to make emergency stops.
It's common for rural roads to flood after heavy rain. Avoid driving through floodwater where possible; it's difficult to determine the depth and there may be obstacles or debris beneath the surface that could damage your car.
If it's your only option, then drive through floodwater slowly, and be prepared to reverse out if you feel it becoming too deep. Always check your brakes after driving through deep water; apply them gently to remove excess water.
There are a few things to be mindful of when driving behind a tractor. Firstly, they can be longer than they initially appear, especially when they have a loader on the front. They're also only obliged to use brake or indicator lights at night, so watch out for any unpredictable turns.
Always keep plenty of distance behind a tractor too, and make sure you have lots of room to get by if you want to overtake. And while it can be frustrating to get caught between slow-moving tractors, bear in mind that they usually only take short journeys, so it's worth waiting to see if they turn off before you decide to overtake them.
When you're on a single-track road, you'll see designated spots for drivers to pull over. If you meet another vehicle, either move into a passing place on your left or wait opposite the passing place on your right so that the other vehicle can pass you.
In very narrow lanes without passing places, you might need to use field entrances to let other vehicles pass. If a tractor or country bus is heading in the opposite way, then you may need to reverse until you find a suitable place to allow them to pass.
If small animals move into your path, then swerving sharply or braking suddenly to avoid them could be more dangerous than hitting them, unfortunately. That said, if you have your wits about you, there shouldn't be any reason to hit anything during your travels.
It's not uncommon to get stuck behind a herd of cows or a flock of sheep when you're on the road. Like tractors, make sure you have plenty of room to overtake them if you have to, but be careful not to rev too much or blow the horn as you might end up spooking the animals. The same goes for driving near a horse and rider.
While we're on the topic of cows, you'll probably see your fair share of cattle grids too. Designed to stop animals escaping from fields, these obstacles are a shallow, rectangular hole in the ground covered with metal bars. They don't pose any problems for vehicles and are safe to drive over – you'll just need to slow down on your approach.
Your sports car might look the part driving around the city, but the troughs, peaks and hump bridges of country roads could pose a problem for its low ground clearance. Be careful when encountering any of these, or maybe just avoid them altogether if you don't fancy damage to the undercarriage.