Almost half of drivers are overtaking at dangerous speeds on single carriageway rural roads with disregard for the consequences, research by Brake and Direct Line has revealed.
Of 942 drivers surveyed, 47% admit speeding at more than 60mph to overtake on country roads at least once in the past year, with 23% confessing doing this at least once a month. Incredibly, one in eight drivers also admit overtaking when they can't see what is coming in the opposite direction.
The results suggest that drivers continue to feel a false sense of security on rural roads, misguidedly believing that it is safe and enjoyable to drive at high speeds. In reality, drivers are much more likely to die on a rural road than any other type, with speed and overtaking major factors in causing deaths.
Ellen Booth, Brake's campaigns officer, said: "It's high time we tackle this irresponsible and downright dangerous love of speed on our roads. Speeding down a country road isn't the epitome of freedom; it's the epitome of stupidity. Drivers who overtake at speed on country roads aren't just risking their own lives - they are selfishly endangering their passengers and anyone coming the other way."
Andy Goldby, director of motor underwriting at Direct Line, said: "Two people die on single carriageway roads every day, and these deaths could be prevented. Our own data suggests that young drivers and their passengers are even more likely to die on this type of road. Drivers should remember that patience is a virtue, when it comes to deciding to overtake another vehicle at speed, as it could be a life saver."
In Britain in 2009, 749 deaths occurred on single carriageway roads with a speed limit of 60mph - that's a third of all road deaths. Almost a third of people killed on single carriageways with a 60mph limit die in crashes where ‘exceeding the speed limit' and/or ‘travelling too fast for the conditions' are recorded as a factor by police at the scene. Last year an annual review of UK road risk found that the ten roads with the greatest concentration of fatal and serious crashes per kilometre are single carriageways.
Brake is calling on the Government to act to tackle the problem of drivers who overtake irresponsibly and speed on rural roads. They should do this by reducing the default speed limit on single carriageway roads to 50mph or lower, with lower limits on roads where there are particular risks. They should also continue to improve enforcement of speed limits, such as by using average speed cameras, and conduct widespread awareness campaigns to tackle the problematic culture of speeding and overtaking on rural roads.
The coalition government has yet to respond to a 2010 consultation on setting speed limits, which proposed that highways authorities should carry out speed limit reviews on ‘A' and ‘B' class national speed limit single carriageways and lower limits on rural roads where the risks are relatively high and there is evidence that a lower limit would reduce casualties.