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The Cycle Campaign Network (www.cyclenetwork.org.uk) reports that Direct Line, the UK's largest car insurers, has called for the speed limit on rural roads to be reduced to 40mph due to the high number of fatalities now occurring on country lanes.

Every year there are more than 15,000 crashes resulting in fatalities or serious injuries. And 23% of drivers report a near miss in the previous five years.

Among all road fatalities, 64% take place on rural roads, and Direct Line's findings indicate that one of the main causes of collisions is speeding, with over a quarter of drivers admitting exceeding 60mph.

On the positive side, 63% of motorists are in favour of of driving tests being revised to include tuition on how to drive on rural roads, and 74% believe the current speed is limit too high for country roads. Furthermore, 36% of rural motorists find driving on country lanes difficult.

Emma Holyer, Direct Line's Motor spokesperson, said, 'The majority of motorists on the country roads in the summer are likely to be unfamiliar with them, and they can be extremely dangerous - especially when approached at high speed. We are reminding motorists to drive safely and watch their speeds on all rural roads in a bid to reduce the number of accidents. We are also calling upon the government to reduce the speed limit for 60mph to 40mph, as we feel the current speed limit is too fast for rural lanes'.

Editorial comment: Whilst casualties on rural roads is a matter of deep concern, society is paying a far higher price in discouraging walking and cycling. When did you last see mums and dads taking their children for a walk down a country lane? And how often have we heard off-road cyclists saying they wouldn't dream of riding on any road, including rural ones The casualty statistics are only a fraction of the story of our loss of a rich country walking and cycling heritage.

Car upside down on lane

A quiet country lane near Llandynog in the Vale of Clwyd - no other vehicle involved