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Factors to be aware of when driving in unfamiliar areas

Driving in unfamiliar areas is something most drivers will do at some point. Some will stick to the same local area for much of their driving life, while others will visit new areas virtually every day – often as part of their work. According to the British Safety Council, over 25% of all accidents on UK roads involve someone who is driving for work reasons. Of course, this also means nearly 75% of accidents involve people who are driving for other reasons, so we must all do everything we can to stay safe on the roads.

You may wonder why driving in unfamiliar areas is potentially more dangerous than driving somewhere you know. Both cases can present dangers, after all – if you know an area well, you could become complacent and cause an accident because you weren’t expecting an obstacle to be in front of you. It could also be because you almost never meet another car at a junction, so you assume this will once again be the case – and experience a crash because of it.

However, driving in unfamiliar areas can also mean a whole different set of potential hazards can come up, as you will see here.

Driving in unfamiliar areas: What to look out for

There are lots of things you could be faced with when driving somewhere completely new. Here are a few of the elements you should be ready for:

  • Unfamiliar roads and junctions
  • Changing speed limits in built-up areas
  • Farm traffic in the countryside
  • Changing weather conditions (especially if you’re driving in mountainous regions)
  • Schools and pedestrians
  • Sharp bends (particularly in the countryside)
  • Oncoming traffic in the middle of the road (perhaps during roadworks or because of parked cars)

These are just a few of the things you should be aware of. The main thing to remember is to stay alert and to keep your speed down. These two things will help reduce the odds of having an accident.

How can defensive driving help?

Have you heard of defensive driving before? This is the process of learning how to drive defensively, so you are aware of the changing circumstances around you. This can minimise the chances of being involved in an accident. After all, even if someone else causes the accident, you would rather avoid being involved to begin with, wouldn’t you?

Defensive driving is very useful when driving in unfamiliar areas. It is all about giving yourself more room and time, no matter where you are and where you are going. Always assume other drivers will take shortcuts and behave in ways that could be potentially dangerous. This may sound dramatic, but if you do this, you stand a much better chance of avoiding an accident.

Can tips for driving in unfamiliar areas apply to other road users too?

Yes, indeed – and motorcyclists are a great example of how important it is to be aware of what is around you. According to the Think! website, developed by the government, motorcyclists are around 38 times more likely to be killed than someone in a car, regardless of whether that is the driver or a passenger. Again, anticipating the road ahead and the potential actions of other drivers can mean the difference between an accident and getting home safely.

It is also very important to make sure you are as visible as you can be on the roads. If you do come off your bike, protective gear can protect you from injury, and making sure it is bright (and reflective during darkness) will help minimise the odds of being injured.

Do some research on the area before you go

If you are going on holiday, or travelling to an area you haven’t visited before, it may help to find out some more about it before you go. You will still be driving in unfamiliar areas, but you stand a chance of understanding more about the terrain and what you will see when you drive there.

The RAC has good advice about driving abroad, but many of the points given are ideal for driving in unknown parts of the UK, too. For example, take a break frequently – driving in unfamiliar areas can be very tiring, as you will be even more alert than you usually are.

Remember, too, that while driving experience comes with age, never assume you will be fine driving in an area you are unfamiliar with. Age UK mentions the importance of following your instincts. If you are somewhere you haven’t been before and you are lost or unsure of where you are, find a safe place to pull over so you can take some time to assess your position. Staying safe isn’t just a case of slowing down or being alert for the presence of unfamiliar junctions or road layouts. There are many elements involved, and if you are unsure of where to go, you could increase the odds of having an accident. So, pull over when you can do so safely, and consider your next move.

Have you been involved in a road accident that was caused by someone else?

Of course, even if you do everything right and you take great care when driving somewhere you are unfamiliar with, you could still be caught up in a road accident if someone else has not been as careful as you. You cannot always anticipate what others will do, and you may find yourself in a situation where you have no chance of escape.

If you’ve been injured while driving in unfamiliar areas, or even somewhere close to home, call Accident Advice Helpline now on 0800 689 5659 for no-obligation advice on making a possible compensation claim. Make sure you seek our help today, as a claim must be started within three years of the accident happening to stand a chance of success.