Using the road safely

Road Safety

Country roads – safety advice for motorists 

  • Always brake before the bend, not in it. 
  • Allow more time to stop on wet or slippery surfaces. 
  • Read the road ahead and anticipate potential hazards. 
  • Drive at a speed that allows you to stop in the distance you can see to be clear. 
  • Stay in control and give yourself time to react by braking before a bend, not on it. 
  • Respect other users of country roads. Give cyclists, walkers and horse riders plenty of space when overtaking. 
  • Drive within the speed limit. The national speed limit on single carriage roads is 60mph.but, if the weather is poor or the road surface is dirty, slow down.  60mph is very often way too fast for the conditions. 
  • Don’t overtake if you get stuck behind a slow-moving vehicle unless you are absolutely 100% sure that the road ahead is clear and it is safe to do so.  Dips in roads, bends and other junctions joining your road often hide oncoming vehicles. 
  • Drive slowly and pass wide when passing more vulnerable road users such as horse riders, cyclists and walkers. 
  • Even if you’re familiar with a country road, never take it for granted as the conditions can be different every time. 

High winds 

High wind may cause difficult driving conditions, especially to high-sided vehicles negotiating the higher sections of motorways. 

Drivers of high-sided vehicles, caravans and motorbikes are advised to take extra care when travelling due to the increased risk of vehicles being blown over. Sudden gusts can catch out even the most experienced driver.  

Heavy rain/floods 

Driving in wet conditions can be hazardous, but you have a better chance of staying safe if you prepare for wet weather. 

Take it easy through standing water and if the steering does become unresponsive due to the rain, ease off the accelerator and slow down gradually. 

  • NEVER drive through fast-moving water such as at a flooded bridge or ford  – your car could easily be swept away. 
  • Watch out for standing water, trying to avoid it if you can, and adjust your speed to the conditions. 
  • Driving fast through standing water is dangerous – tyres lose contact with the road and you lose steering control in what’s known as ‘aquaplaning’.  If you do experience aquaplaning, hold the steering wheel lightly and lift off the throttle until the tyres regain grip. 
  • Driving fast through standing water can cause expensive damage. The air intake on many cars is low down at the front of the engine bay and it only takes a small quantity of water sucked into the engine to cause serious damage. All engines are affected but turbo-charged and diesel engines are most vulnerable. 
  • As you drive slowly through standing water, use a low gear so the engine revs are higher; water in the exhaust could otherwise damage the catalytic convertor. 

If you break down in heavy rain don’t prop the bonnet open while you wait for the patrol to arrive. The engine will be more difficult to start again if the electrics are rain-soaked. 


In snow or icy conditions, it will take longer to stop – always drive at a speed appropriate for the conditions. 

  • Keep the lights, windows and mirrors clean and free from ice and snow 
  • Make sure wipers and lights are in good working order.  
  • Add anti-freeze to the radiator and winter additive to the windscreen washer bottles. 
  • Check that tyres have plenty of tread depth and are maintained at the correct pressure – snowy conditions require good grip! 
  • Pack a snow/ice scraper, de-icer, snow shovel, hat, gloves, boots, a torch, bottle of water and a first aid kit. For longer journeys, you should take blankets, a snack and a flask of warm drink in case you breakdown and need to wait for assistance.  
  • Fog makes the road wet and slippery so don’t leave it too late to turn on your lights – see and be seen!  
  • Ensure your tyres and brakes are in good order. Your vehicle will take much longer to stop on a wet surface, particularly one covered with wet leaves. 
  • Watch out for children walking and cycling to and from school. It may be difficult to see them because of low light levels.  
  1. There are five main causes of serious injuries and deaths on the region’s roads. They are known as the ‘Fatal 5′. 

1. Careless driving 

It is crucial we educate motorists on how to use the roads safely. When cars are driven badly, they can turn into a lethal machine. With new car technology, safety and protection systems are in place. However, we are still at risk of harming ourselves, other road users and pedestrians through lack due care and attention. 

Human error is by far the biggest contributory factor to fatal collisions. It’s just not worth dying for. 

Examples of careless driving could be:  

  • Risky over-taking and undertaking. 
  • Not driving at an appropriate speed for the road and weather conditions – even if within the speed limit. 
  • Distractions such as eating, drinking and passenger distraction and mobile phone use. 
  • Lack of concentration and driving while fatigued. 
  • Driving too close to the vehicle in front. 
  • Not paying attention to road signs, road layouts and junctions. Assuming the right of way. 
  • Middle lane hogging and drifting between lanes. 
  • Failing to signal when changing lanes or turning, improper lane changes. 
  • Failure to stop for emergency vehicles. 

2. Drink and drug driving 

Driving after drinking can have devastating consequences and can easily result in a loss of life.  All too often we attend road traffic incidents which have life changing impacts on families. 

Please keep yourself, your family and others safe. Make the Promise: ’If you have had a drink or taken drugs – Don’t Drive. 

What drink driving could cost you: 

  • being caught and breathalysed by the police. 
  • A 12-month driving ban. 
  • Criminal record. 
  • Hefty fine. 
  • Lifestyle changes (i.e. potential loss of job, relationships or car). 

If you get caught drink driving, then the above is the minimum that will happen to you. You may also be liable to a fine of up to £5,000 and up to 6 months in prison. 

But nothing on that list reflects the everyday consequences of being caught drink driving. To understand that you’ll have to use your imagination. 

Statistics – drink and drug driving 

  • Every week in the UK, 11 people will die because of drink driving. 
  • Young men in their 20s are four times more likely to be involved in drink drive accidents than other age groups. 
  • On average, 3,000 people are killed or seriously injured each year because of drink driving. 
  • 11 people are killed by drink drivers on UK roads every week. 
  • The penalties if caught driving while impaired through drink or drugs are severe. If caught, you face a minimum one-year ban, a fine of up to £5,000 and six months in jail. 
  • Around 18% of people killed in road crashes have traces of illegal drugs in their blood. 
  • Different drugs affect your driving in different ways, some speed up your reactions, some slow them down – all are dangerous. 

Driving under the influence of drugs is an increasing danger on the roads. Driving requires full concentration and anything that impairs the ability to focus makes a crash more likely. 

Morning after drink driving 

It takes a lot longer than most people think for alcohol to pass through the body. On average it takes around one hour per unit of alcohol, though this can vary depending on a number of factors. 

Because of this, there is a real risk that people who would not dream of driving after drinking may still be unwittingly over the drink drive limit the morning after. 

This includes people going about everyday activities such as driving to work, doing the school run, popping to the shops or going to see friends. 

3. Not wearing a seatbelt 

Seatbelts are designed to keep people in their seats and to prevent or reduce injuries suffered in a crash.  They reduce the risk of being thrown from a vehicle. 

  • In a crash you’re twice as likely to die if you don’t wear a seatbelt.  Always wear a seatbelt even on a short journey – seatbelts save lives.  
  • Wear your seatbelt correctly for the best possible protection in a crash. 
  • Children over 12 years old, or more than 135cm tall, must wear a seatbelt. 
  • Child car seats must be used by babies and children under 12 years old, or under 135 centimetres tall. 

The law states : 

  • Drivers and passengers who fail to wear seatbelts in the front and back of vehicles are breaking the law and drivers caught without a seatbelt face on-the-spot fines of £100. If prosecuted, the maximum fine is £500. 

Drivers can be fined up to £500 if a child under 12 isn’t in the correct car seat or wearing a seatbelt while you’re driving. 

Useful links 

More information about the child car seats and the law (opens in new window) 

More information about seatbelts and the law (opens in new window) 

Seatbelt safety advice from RoSPA (opens in new window) 

THINK! Crash Simulator – see what happens if you don’t wear a seatbelt in a crash (opens in new window) 

4. Using a mobile phone 

It is illegal to use a hand-held phone or similar device while driving or riding a motorcycle. 

The rules are the same if you’re stopped at traffic lights or queuing in traffic. 

The facts 

Studies show that drivers using a hands-free or handheld mobile phone are slower at recognising and reacting to hazards. Even careful drivers can be distracted by a call or text – and a split-second lapse in concentration could result in a crash. The law states it’s illegal to hold and use a phone, sat nav, tablet, or any device that can send or receive data, while driving or riding a motorcycle. This means you must not use a device in your hand for any reason, whether online or offline. 

For example, you must not text, make calls, take photos or videos, or browse the web. The law still applies to you if you’re: 

  • Stopped at traffic lights queuing in traffic. 
  • Supervising a learner driver. 
  • Driving a car that turns off the engine when you stop moving. 
  • Holding and using a device that’s offline or in flight mode. 


You can use a device held in your hand if: 

  • You need to call 999 or 112 in an emergency and it’s unsafe or impractical to stop. 
  • You’re safely parked. 
  • You’re making a contactless payment in a vehicle that is not moving, for example at a drive-through restaurant. 
  • You’re using the device to park your vehicle remotely. 

Using devices hands-free 

You can use devices with hands-free access, as long as you do not hold them at any time during usage. Hands-free access means using, for example: 

  • A Bluetooth headset, a built-in sat nav or voice command. 
  • A dashboard holder or mat. 
  • A windscreen mount. 

The device must not block your view of the road and traffic ahead. 

Staying in full control of your vehicle 

You must stay in full control of your vehicle at all times. The police can stop you if they think you’re not in control because you’re distracted and you can be prosecuted. 


You can get six penalty points and a £200 fine if you hold and use a phone, sat nav, tablet, or any device that can send and receive data while driving or riding a motorcycle. You’ll also lose your licence if you passed your driving test in the last 2 years. 

You can get three penalty points if you do not have a full view of the road and traffic ahead or proper control of the vehicle. You can also be taken to court where you can: 

  • Be banned from driving or riding. 
  • Get a maximum fine of £1,000 (£2,500 if you’re driving a lorry or bus. 

5. Speeding 

Speed is one of the main factors in fatal road accidents. 

Safety advice for motorists 

  • The speed limit is a limit not a target – in bad weather (fog, rain, snow, etc) even driving at the speed limit could be too fast. 
  • 60% of fatal road accidents occur on country roads so, although the national speed limit on single carriage roads is 60mph,  you may need to drive under that in order to drive correctly for the conditions. These roads often have sharp bends, blind bends and unexpected hazards – brake carefully and give yourself time to react and stay in control. 

Increasing speeding fines 

Fines for people caught speeding increased from 24 April 2017. 

The new rules for magistrates, set down by the Sentencing Council, will see them able to fine speeders up to 150% of their weekly income, rather than the current 100%. 

These increases will apply to the sort of excessive speeding that often result in innocent people being killed or seriously injured – for example, those caught at 41mph or above in a 20mph zone, at 51mph in a 30mph zone, and at 101mph on a motorway. 

For more information about the increase in speeding fines - Speeding (opens in new window) 

Useful links 

Speed limits (open in new window) 

THINK! speed (opens in new window) 

Stopping distances – Brake website (opens in new window) 

Staying safe on the motorways: 

Here we offer helpful advice to make sure your journey on the motorway network is a safe one. 

Drive safe 

  • Belt up - seat belts save lives. 
  • Avoid distractions - keep your eyes on the road at all times. 
  • Don’t drink drive - remember you could still be over the limit the next day. 
  • Check your speed – the speed limit is a limit not a target.  In some road conditions, including fog and rain even driving at the speed limit could be too fast. 

Only a fool breaks the two second rule! 

In dry conditions drivers are advised to keep a two second gap between themselves and the vehicle in front. In poor conditions, leave a bigger gap. 

As the vehicle in front passes a fixed point, say “only a fool breaks the two second rule”.  If you pass the fixed point before you’ve finished saying it, then you’re too close and should leave a bigger gap. 

Hard shoulder safety 

If you break down on the motorway: 

  • Pull over to the hard shoulder as far to the left as possible. 
  • Turn on your hazard warning lights. 
  • Leave via the left-hand door. 
  • Walk to an emergency telephone on your side of the carriageway (follow the arrows on the posts) – the telephone is free of charge and connects directly to an operator. Always face the traffic when you speak on the phone. 
  • Return and wait near your vehicle (well away from the carriageway and hard shoulder). 

Tiredness kills – take a break! 

Don’t fight signs of tiredness.  If you’re on a long journey make sure you take a 15-minute break at least every two hours. 

Avoid starting long journeys between midnight and 4am when you are naturally tired. 

Smart motorways 

Some motorways in England are using technology to manage congestion. These are known as smart motorways. 

On a smart motorway: 

  • Never drive under a red “X”. 
  • Keep to the speed limit shown on the gantries. 
  • A solid white line indicates the hard shoulder – don’t drive in it unless directed. 
  • A broken white line indicates a normal running lane. 
  • Use the refuge areas for emergencies if there’s no hard shoulder. 
  • Put your hazard lights on if you break down.