NEW figures show that 1017 people lost their lives on rural roads in 2022 - up 14% on the previous year. 

NFU Mutual has today (Tuesday, December 5) announced plans for a Code for Countryside Roads to help tackle the danger of rural roads, after anaylising the statistics released by the Department for Transport. 

NFU Mutual has written a report based on the statistics, which shows that rural road fatalities are 72% higher than urban road ones, and that accidents on rural roads are four times more likely to result in death. In 2022, an average of one in every 31 accidents (1017 of 31395) on rural highways led to death, compared to one in every 120 (593 of 71151) on urban roads.

The rural insurer's campaign is supported by THINK!, British Cycling, The British Horse Society and the four UK farming unions, and it aims to bring together expert advice and knowledge to make rural roads safer. 

Chief executive of NFU Mutual, Nick Turner, said: “Rural roads are not only the arteries of the rural economy, but also the gateway to our countryside and a source of enjoyment for millions.

“Sadly, our analysis shows that, after a few years of decreasing fatalities, rural roads are becoming more deadly again. Over 1,000 people lost their lives on rural roads last year, with thousands more injured.

“Every road death is one too many, and we believe serious conversations need to happen to make rural roads safer for everyone.

“That is why we are today announcing a Code for Countryside Roads, which will take in feedback and advice from experts and groups to provide a clear guide to how people should use rural roads.

“We all need to work together to ensure we keep our countryside as safe as it can be.

“We invite members of the public and experts to get in touch with us to feed into the Code for Countryside Roads and hope the document, once published, will help steer a course towards safer rural roads for all road users.”

If you want to provide your views on the NFU Mutual campaign, click here

According to the statistics, in 2022, motorists and their passengers were more than three times more likely to lose their lives on a rural road than an urban highway. The death of car drivers and their passengers increased 23% to 557, returning to levels not seen since 2018. Urban fatalities for people in cars totalled 176 in 2022.

A survey conducted by NFU Mutual in November, showed that one in seven people had been in an accident on a rural road, and one in five admit to being uncomfortable driving on rural roads. 

Among the concerns mentioned were blind corners, narrow roads, impatient drivers and people breaking the speed limit. 

In 2022, the highway code was amended to introduce a 'heirarchy of road users', which bought in rules to give vulnerable road users such as cyclists, horse riders, pedestrians and motorcyclists greater protection from motorists. 

Horses and their riders are a group significantly at risk on rural roads. According to The British Horse Society, 69 horses were killed on the road in 2022 and 139 riders injured, with equine-related road incidents increasing 21% on 2021.

In the November survey, one in four respondants - with 47% living in rural areas - said navigating vulnerable road users like cyclists, pedestrians and horse riders was amongst their top concerns when it comes to rural road safety.

Experts at NFU Mutual have identified key areas which contribute towards accidents on rural roads: 

  • Vehicles travelling at high speeds resulting in head-on collisions
  • A loss of control at unanticipated tight corners, often due to excessive speed
  • Unmarked junctions or hidden entrances
  • Weather conditions, such as icy roads, water, or low glare from the sun
  • Increased traffic from rural businesses – collisions between agricultural vehicles and third parties are 52% more likely during the summer harvest season, for example