Who’s Afraid of the Country Road?

Curse you, satnav!

So, you’re driving to an unfamiliar destination in the country, cruising at 60 mph along a nice fast A-road.

Suddenly, the satnav throws you a curved ball, directing you along an unnamed road that quickly shrinks to a single track. With blind bends. Now even 25mph is pushing it.

You’re probably frustrated that the electronic idiot has steered you off a perfectly good route and cost you some time — but are you also anxious, or even downright afraid?

Because if the answer is yes, you’re actually in the majority.

76% feel stressed on narrow country roads

Well, that headline is a slight cheat, because that’s 76% of urban drivers. Maybe that’s not too surprising, what with all their Rolls Royces and fancy city ways. What is an eye-opener is that around 49%* of rural drivers are also stressed by country roads. In fact, a small percentage** reported that they ‘always avoided narrow country roads’, which must be something of a downer.

In case you think these stats came from the Institute of Made-Up Studies, they were actually uncovered in a 2021 survey of 2000 drivers, carried out by the RAC and Ageas. You can check out the full results on the RAC or Ageas sites.

How severe is the fear?

There, that will calm you down after a nerve-racking drive.

Many drivers aren’t just a little bit nervous about narrow country roads — a substantial proportion will go miles out of their way to avoid them. The survey showed that 30% of drivers will travel an extra 16 miles to avoid tackling a stretch. This adds an estimated 25 minutes to the journey. As the Ageas website helpfully points out, this is:

..enough time to watch an episode of EastEnders.

We’re not sure watching a cockney shouting competition would be a good way of calming down after an anxiety-provoking driving experience. Or maybe that’s just us.

What’s so scary?

He’s more scared of you than you are of him. Probably.

The 1159 respondents who didn’t like narrow country roads cited a number of reasons. Topping the list was the fear of squeezing past someone else (62%). This was closely followed by anxiety about being crashed into by someone coming round a corner (61%).

Other explanations for anxiety included:

  • Having to try to reverse back to find a passing place (45%)
  • The fear of meeting a tractor and not being able to pass (44%)
  • Negotiating who reverses to a passing place (37%
  • The default 60mph limit seems too fast (36%)
  • The fear of damaging my car (35%)
  • The fear of hitting a pedestrian or cyclist (27%)
  • The fear of meeting a horse(s) (22%)
  • I’m not confident at reversing (18%)

To be honest, none of that sounds unreasonable. It’s not completely irrational to worry that a lunatic might come hooning round the corner on a narrow road — consider that rural roads account for 62% of road fatalities, despite carrying just 40% of our traffic. And most drivers are at least a wee bit unsettled by meeting horses (other than socially), even on a decent-sized road.

Rural vs urban fears

Easier than reversing into a passing place, apparently.

So, for various reasons, narrow country roads stress many of us out. But how do they compare to other potentially worrying driving experiences? Another survey, this time by the AA, asked respondents which type of road they found scary. Again, the results surprised us:

One in ten (11%) [sic] say they feel scared on this kind of road [single track]… The second scariest type of road was urban/city centre roads with 6% of drivers feeling scared on them; followed by rural roads (4%), motorways (4%), dual carriageways (1%) and single carriageways (1%).

Age makes a difference

Fear of rural roads declines with age, with 8% of drivers aged 18-24 reporting fear of single track roads, 13% of drivers aged 25 -34, but only 3% of drivers over 65. Maybe that’s a rational fear too, given that 69% of crashes for young drivers (and 70% of fatal crashes) happen on rural roads.

Incidentally, note there’s quite a big difference between the levels of fear reported here and in the RAC survey. That’s probably down to the way the questions are phrased, but we can’t track down the source material to check.

MOTs, servicing, repairs in South Wales — no country roads necessary

Here we are – it’s all very straightforward.

Down here in South Wales, we do have our share of single track country roads. But the good news is that you can get to dealer quality MOTs, servicing and repairs without using any of them. We’re happy to say that WVS is reached by navigable two-lane roads, with very little risk of having to reverse into a passing place, deal with a tractor, or negotiate with a horse. Give us a ring and get your vehicle sorted before you set off on your hols!

The WVS blog covers a wide range of automotive topics, from the contentious to the light-hearted. We are an independent garage specialising in the VW group marques, including Audi, Volkswagen, Skoda and SEAT. WVS provides services, repairs and MOTs, delivering a main dealer level of care at affordable prices. To book your vehicle in, or for any enquiries, get in touch.

* approximate figures from the website pie chart

** from their website, we can’t be more precise than that. That’s a B minus for the RAC.