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.