Road Safety Foundation slams “1- and 2-star roads”

12.00 | 16 October 2012 | | 6 comments

The Road Safety Foundation has called on the Government to make safety central to any reform to the way Britain’s major road network is owned and financed, claiming that “simple attention to safety engineering detail has resulted in extraordinary cuts of road deaths and serious injuries”.

Dr Joanne Marden, director of the Road Safety Foundation, said “the British public should not be driving 5-star cars on 1- and 2-star roads”.

The call follows publication of the Road Safety Foundation’s latest tracking survey, titled ‘Engineering a Safer Future: performance managing busy high risk routes to minimum safety levels’. The survey shows that fatal and serious injury crashes on 10 stretches of treated road fell by nearly two thirds, from 541 to 209 (2001-2005 and 2006-2010). The Foundation calculates that this equates to a “boost to the economy worth £35m every year”.

The report names Britain’s 10 busy higher-risk roads, with the A21 (A229 to Hastings) topping the league. Typically, the highest risk roads are narrow, twisting and hilly in rural areas of the north.

With David Cameron, prime minister, having set this autumn as the deadline for a radical review of the finance and ownership of the major road network, the Foundation argues that minimum safety levels should be set which make sense to the public, to investors and to new operators of Britain’s motorways and A roads.

Dr Marden said: “Even a modest ambition to improve these sections of road – so they simply get an ‘average’ risk rating and became six times more risky than motorways – would save many lives and (deliver) cost savings to the economy of £20m annually.

“The planned reforms in road financing mean a new focus on measuring safety performance and the high returns quickly available from safety engineering. Where there is clear evidence of higher risk and heavy traffic flows, the economic case for intervention is compelling. With 2% of GDP lost in road crashes, as well as lives, we can get quick, guaranteed returns by raising safety levels.”

This year’s most improved road is a rural 13-mile single carriageway section of the A605 in Cambridgeshire. Over the two survey periods, fatal and serious crashes fell by 74%, from 34 to nine.

Speed enforcement through fixed and mobile cameras is used on all but two of the most improved roads. Changes to the layout and traffic management at junctions are common features, and other measures include new traffic signals to control traffic flow; restricting turning movements onto roads with high traffic levels or poor visibility; widening entry and exit lanes with changes to the lining and signing; advanced warning signs; and installing high friction and coloured surfacing.

Dr Marden added: “These are practical, relatively inexpensive solutions which will pay back the costs of investment in a matter of weeks – with high rates of return in the first year alone – and go on saving lives and saving money for the nation for many years to come. Much of this remedial work can be done as part of routine maintenance.

“The British public should not be driving 5-star cars on 1- and 2-star roads. The Government must make minimum safety levels the centrepiece of any reform.”

Click here to read the full report.


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    Dave Finney is quite right.

    In particular, we need to evaluate the effects of government policies on road safety.

    I suspect, however, that the “establishment” daren’t. Hence, the effects on safety of e.g. the de-regulation of the bus industry and (in Scotland, at least), compulsory competitive tendering, local government re-organisation and the cancellation of trunk road agency agreements will never be known. Strange how little interest seems to be shown by the “establishment” on matters which obviously directly affect the ability of those responsible for studying accidents and taking measures to prevent them (the local authorities) and may even be the reason why the rate at which fatalities were being reduced before their implementation has been cut by two-thirds.

    Andrew Fraser
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    Not covering roads in half an inch of loose gravel under the guise of surface dressing would be a serious improvement too. Even at 15 mph on a two wheeled vehicle it’s dangerous and the signage for it is often inadequate.

    Dave, Leeds
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    I can support the improvements of our road surfaces in particular. I have noticed recently that where there was once a coarse aggregated road giving a skid resistant surface, having been repaired for whatever reason the new surfaces are less agressive with smaller aggregates and are less skid resistant.

    I have seen this on motorways primarily on the nearside lane. Also on the Buxton/Macclesfield road known as the Cat and Fiddle in Derbyshire. A road which now looks like a patchwork quilt with about 5 different road surfaces each giving different tyre traction and also showing very different water drainage qualities – dry, wet, dry, wet – get the picture.

    This makes driving and riding more difficult as one is not expecting such a difference in quality of road surface.

    Some consistancy would be of benefit.

    bob craven Lancs
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    “the British public should not be driving 5-star cars on 1- and 2-star roads”

    Wouldn’t it be nice if all the “British Public” were 5 star drivers?

    Right Road NW
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    Identifying the most dangerous roads to concentrate effort there makes sense but claims that costs are rapidly recovered (based on the DfT’s “values”) are much exaggerated because:

    (a) the large proportion allocated to “suffering” is not cash that can repay spending. Spending to prevent suffering is justifiable, claiming that it is recovered in cash terms is not.

    (b) “lost output” figures are bogus:

    (i) a road accident ending a life ends that person’s share of demand as well as of output, one cancelling the other (on average).

    (ii) the output of anyone unable to work is made good by others to ensure that demand is met – as it always is. No output is lost.

    The accident comparisons are distorted by the unprecedented falls of 2008/9/10 largely due to the severe recession and its effects on drivers, across the developed world. There is little or no justification for attributing those falls to specific roads policies.

    Idris Francis Petersfield
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    I’m noticing a pattern here. Reports are being produced thick and fast but, when I read them, I find they contain no scientific trials and little or no evaluation of the causes of changes that occur when interventions are made. In short, no real (good quality) evidence is being presented to support the conclusions.

    I really do believe that a new culture needs to be introduced into road safety where the default is to use scientific trials and, where not feasible, detailed evaluation of other influences are made in order to separate the effects of interventions.

    But I can’t do this from outside, it needs a movement from within the establishment.

    Dave Finney – Slough
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