AA Charitable Trust

Ground-breaking research highlights the most dangerous rural roads for young drivers

  • AA Charitable Trust launches interactive map highlighting riskiest rural roads for young drivers
  • Research shows 71% of fatal crashes involving young drivers are on rural roads
  • Research shows young drivers over-represented in rural crashes by 9%
  • Rural crash risk varies by time of day and day of week
  • Single vehicle rural crash risk varies depending on weather conditions
  • Substance impairment is more likely to be a contributory factor on Sundays and in the early hours
  • Worst rural roads for young drivers are the A229 in Kent and the A6076 in County Durham
  • Research funded by The Road Safety Trust looked at more than 70,000 young drivers involved in crashes on rural roads over 6 years

New research shows for the first time which rural roads pose the greatest danger to young drivers. The study is launched by The AA Charitable Trust today (12 May) following funding from The Road Safety Trust. The campaign will help raise awareness that 71% of fatal crashes involving young drivers occur on rural roads.

Overall, the research shows young drivers (aged 17-to-24) are over-represented in rural crashes by 9%, relative to all roads, with the over-representation highest for those aged 17 (27%) and decreasing with every subsequent year.

Young drivers were also shown to face a higher risk of death (2%) or serious injury 15.2%) when involved in a crash on a rural road compared to an urban road (0.6%; 11.3%).

Rural road 
Top 10 most dangerous rural roads for young drivers:
Position By Collision Density By Percentage of all Crashes (relative risk)
1 A229 in Kent A6076 in County Durham
2 A2 in Kent A704 in West Lothian
3 A3 in Surrey A419 in Gloucestershire
4 A1 in Hertfordshire A388 in Cornwall
5 A243 in Surrey A41 in Hertfordshire
A846 in Argyll & Bute
6 A414 in Hertfordshire Ranked equal to above
7 A1 in Wakefield A5093 in Cumbria
A885 in Argyll & Bute
A4068 in Powys
A436 in Gloucestershire
8 A322 in Surrey Ranked equal to above
9 A249 in Kent Ranked equal to above
10 A595 in Cumbria Ranked equal to above

The proportion of crashes on rural roads on Sundays is 24% higher for young drivers than it is for other drivers. Young drivers are also at a higher risk of a single vehicle collision on rural roads.

The dataset behind the research covers six years of crash data (2013-2018). Analysts at Agilysis and the Road Safety Foundation studied 74,919 young drivers involved in crashes of all injury severities on a rural road.

The results sit behind an interactive map, which shows the relative risk of collisions involving young drivers on rural routes across the country.

Map users can see the most dangerous rural roads for young drivers by collision density and as a percentage of all crashes indicating the relative risks young drivers face on these roads compared to other drivers.

Data will be shared with relevant and interested local authorities to help highlight those roads which appear to pose the greatest risk.

Edmund King, AA Charitable Trust director, said:

“This ground-breaking analysis shows, for the first time, the most dangerous rural roads for young drivers as well as an in-depth study of contributory factors involved in those crashes.

“Many young drivers and indeed parents are unaware that rural roads pose a specific and significant risk to young drivers and potentially are much more dangerous than motorways or urban roads. 71% of fatal car crashes involving young drivers take place on rural roads. The research should help target driver education at the times and places young drivers are most at risk.

“Our data clearly shows that the rural road risk is highest for the youngest drivers on our roads and decreases with each year of age. This is a clear sign greater education and exposure to rural roads helps alleviate the risks they pose.

“This is just the first stage in what we plan to be an ongoing campaign to really improve the education of young drivers on rural roads.”

I strongly support the AA in their work to improve the education of drivers
Grant Shapps, Transport Secretary

Transport Secretary Grant Shapps said:

“Rural roads are often narrow with blind bends, which is why it’s essential we raise awareness among young people on how to drive safely on them.

“I strongly support the AA in their work to improve the education of drivers. Our award-winning THINK! campaign challenges social norms among younger drivers – including attitudes to speeding and driving on rural roads –and I look forward to working together to prevent further tragedies.”

Sally Lines OBE Chief Executive from The Road Safety Trust, said:

“We are pleased to have funded such informative and insightful research. It is important to be able to clearly identify risks to young drivers on rural roads and take steps forward to address those, whether it is through education, infrastructure improvements, or both.

“We want to make UK roads safer for all road users and these findings provide the platform to be able to help reduce the risk of death or serious injury to young drivers.”

Case study: James O’Kennedy, Team Leader, South Central Ambulance Service.

James O’Kennedy has seen the aftermath of the risks rural roads pose to young drivers during his career as a paramedic. In his experience, each rural crash involving a young driver which he has attended has had a number of contributory factors including high speeds, slippery conditions around farms, adverse weather and failure to allow sufficient passing space on tight country lanes.

He said: “Attending any road death is always a difficult experience but to attend an incident where a young driver, or those travelling with them, have lost their life is especially traumatic.

“As well as being deeply tragic for those involved, these incidents can have a significant life-long effect on the emergency services personnel who attend the scene.”

Young Rural Driver Crash Fact file:

  • July, August, October and November most concerning months for crashes involving young drivers on rural roads
  • Proportion of crashes involving young drivers which are on Sundays is 9% higher on rural roads than on urban roads
  • Single vehicle collisions account for 27% of all young driver crashes on rural roads compared to 16% for drivers of all ages.
  • Substance impairment attributed to a young driver in 9% of young driver rural road crashes on Sundays compared to an average of 4% on other days

Call to action:

  • Driving lessons to cover driving on all types of road at different times of the day and in different weather conditions.
  • Campaign to raise awareness amongst drivers and parents of the dangers
  • Interactive map to be used as a Think! educational resource
  • Local media to highlight the most dangerous rural roads
  • Raise awareness that those growing up in rural areas are more at risk on the roads than their urban counterparts

*Top 20 listed in full at: AA Young Rural Drivers (arcgis.com)

Download the AA Charitable Trust research HERE

Visit AA Driving School for more advice about driving on rural roads