Living in the countryside is lovely, lots of fresh air (most of the time) less noise and traffic than in towns and some would say a slower pace of life. However I have noticed a few changes since my childhood: tractors for one have really changed. Gone are the slow, open cab tractors with the cliché farmer chewing on a piece of straw and in has come high tech machines with all the creature comforts of a car. Farmers can now listen to their radios in a quiet, air conditioned unit and connect their Bluetooth too. All the various controls make them more like a space ship than a tractor.
Driving in the countryside does bring different considerations into play. Every gap in the hedge could be a possible junction for farmers and entering and exiting a field. Not to mention with a trailer it can take time and with the British summer being what it is, the road can end up covered in mud which will affect a vehicle’s grip on the road.
The countryside is a fabulous place to spend time and all the things you pass might impact on your journey: for instance cows coming in for milking, sheep changing field, hay being bailed, horse riders out for a country hack or children cycling home from a local show. These are all reasons to be aware of potential risk when enjoying your day out. In my experience of living in South Wales sheep are notorious escape artists so look out for them being where you least expect or want to see them.
There are things we can do to help prepare us and involve the children in the car. Spotting a tractor in the field early and deciding if it is going to join the road can involve the whole family and gets the younger members in the car looking over hedges and working on their hazard perception skills without them being conscious of it.
A fresh deposit from a horse might mean they are just around the bend, a person waiting for the local bus on the opposite side of the road might mean you come face to face with a bus in a few minutes. Roofs and buildings spotted just over the fields could mean a change of speed and a pretty village to explore – giving the children a leg stretch and breaking up the journey.
Tractors very often pull trailers and machinery which you need to give additional thought to when overtaking. The speed, length and width of the tractor all play an important part in your decision making process along with the obvious considerations of other traffic, road type and layout.
Try to put yourself into the farmer’s world and see things from their point of view, you may be able to ensure you keep safe this summer. When you are worrying about the weather changing at harvest time and surviving on very little sleep you may not be thinking about the motorcyclist out for a leisurely ride on his or her bike.
If your journey is delayed slightly by everyday life in the countryside be patient and feel involved in your trip by embracing the countryside.
Rebecca Ashton, IAM RoadSmart commercial learning and development manager