New research by rural insurer NFU Mutual shows that almost one quarter of people – and just under one third of those living in the countryside – are worried that the quality of rural roads presents a barrier to country living.

The research comes during the most dangerous time of year on the UK’s rural roads, as uncertainty over increased harvest traffic leads to a significant increase in collisions.

The UK is in the middle of harvest season, with high volumes of agricultural traffic on the road throughout summer - including many tractors pulling heavy silage and grain trailers or wide agricultural machinery.

Unfortunately, the latest claims data from NFU Mutual shows that collisions between agricultural vehicles and third parties were 52 per cent more likely between the start of May and the end of September 2022 than in any other months. On average, there were 423 of these accidents per month during the silage cutting, hay making, and harvesting season, compared to 249 per month between October and April.

As well as an increase in agricultural traffic, the summer months also coincide with the school holidays and a greater amount of leisure traffic, with road users not necessarily used to rural roads, which can further increase the risk of accidents.

Andrew Chalk, rural road safety specialist at NFU Mutual, calls for greater awareness and respect from all rural road users:

“Rural roads come with unique hazards, including narrow lanes, fewer road markings and often less well-maintained surfaces. NFU Mutual’s new research shows that a significant number of people are uncomfortable on rural roads, and sadly this is only more acute as agricultural machinery traffic increases in summer.

“Our claims data shows that accidents involving these agricultural vehicles and third parties are over 50 per cent more likely in the harvesting season, so it’s more important than ever that road users are patient and considerate for their fellow road users.

“Agricultural vehicles are generally large, wide and slow, which can tempt road users to overtake, but it’s vital that you remain patient and only overtake when it’s safe to do so – when you can see a clear road ahead, there a no field openings, and you have space to pass.

“With narrow rural roads, you may need to wait for a suitable opportunity.

“Farmers and contractors cannot drive too quickly, but they will generally either be going a short distance to an adjacent field or will – and should – pull over to allow built-up traffic to pass. Motorists and cyclists should be patient, give agricultural vehicles room to turn and not drive too closely to them, which can be dangerous and can obstruct your view before overtaking.

“It’s important to remember that rural roads are vital arteries for our agricultural industry, allowing farmers to bring in the harvest which helps feed the population, as well as valued spaces which allow us to escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life.

“Mutual respect from those who use rural roads for work and for pleasure will ultimately help keep our motorists, cyclists, horse riders and walkers safe this harvest season.”