Rural insurer NFU Mutual has warned that Easter driving hazards could spark a surge in rural road traffic accidents.

Driving hazards like low sun, wind and rain as people travel for staycations could make for “perilous countryside roads” this Easter.

The rural insurer said a March Easter date increases the risk of these driving hazards.

At a time when millions of people are expected to visit the countryside for day trips or short breaks – in vehicles, on bicycles, on horseback and on foot – NFU Mutual said it is concerned that rural roads will become even more dangerous this week.

NFU Mutual’s analysis of the latest full-year official figures found that rural road deaths climbed to a four-year high in 2022, with 1017 people losing their lives on countryside roads.

This figure is up 14% on the previous year.

In the Rural Road Safety Report published last year, NFU Mutual found that there were 72% more deaths on countryside roads than urban roads, with an accident on a rural road around four times more likely to result in a fatality.

A survey in the same report found that one in seven people had been in an accident on a rural road, with one in five admitting to being uncomfortable using rural roads.

Rural road safety spokesperson at NFU Mutual, Andrew Chalk, said: “With Easter falling earlier this year, there is greater risk from common hazards like the glare from low sun, heavy rain and strong winds, all of which make already-dangerous rural roads all the more perilous.

“Considering this, and the fact many people will be visiting the countryside who may not be used to the unique hazards of rural roads, all road users need to be careful and considerate to avoid the risk of a tragic accident this Easter.

“We know from our research that accidents on rural roads are common and that many people are uncomfortable using these roads, so we’re imploring everyone to be patient and practice our advice for safe road use.

“Our rural roads are a beautiful, shared resource and should be enjoyed by everyone this Easter. Don’t risk a life-changing or life-ending accident to get to your destination a few minutes earlier.”

Rural road safety

NFU Mutual launched its rural road safety campaign in 2020 in response to the disproportionate loss of life on rural roads compared to urban roads.

The campaign is supported by British Cycling, The British Horse Society and the four UK farming unions (NFU, NFU Cymru, UFU and NFUS) and aims to raise awareness of the unique hazards of rural roads to support all road users to reduce avoidable casualties.

The rural insurer’s analysis showed that, 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.

Vulnerable road users like pedestrians, cyclists and horse riders are at proportionately higher risk than motorists.

In 2022, vulnerable road users travelled on average just one-sixteenth the number of miles travelled by car drivers.

Despite this, the number of motorcyclists, cyclists and pedestrians who lost their lives on rural roads increased 5% in 2022, to 409 – just 150 fewer than the number of deaths of car drivers on rural roads.

More than twice as many motorcyclists lost their lives on rural roads (240) than urban roads (103) in 2022.

With an average of just 64 miles per year per person completed by motorcyclists on rural roads, they remain the most at-risk vulnerable road user group as deaths increased 11% from 2021.

Pedestrian deaths on rural roads also rose as around one rural walker or rambler died every three days in 2022 – an increase of 11% from the year before.