Scheduling low cost safety improvements alongside routine maintenance has the potential to deliver substantial savings in deaths and serious injuries, according to an annual report from the Road Safety Foundation.
The report, ‘How Safe are You on Britain’s Roads?’, says this approach has helped reduce fatal and serious crashes by 80% on 15 stretches of UK roads, which is “worth a staggering £0.4bn to the economy”.
The report says that the risk to road users is seven times greater on single carriageway A roads than motorways. It also says that running off the road accounts for a quarter of all deaths, and junction crashes most commonly lead to serious injury.
James Bradford, engineering manager for the Road Safety Foundation, said: “Authorities commonly report that many of the most effective improvements have not, surprisingly, been carried out specifically to improve road safety.
“Often the pressing need to carry out very basic maintenance has initiated action and the additional safety enhancements were a later addition.
“Scheduling in this way is extraordinarily cost effective. 90% of routes listed (in the report) contained work on resurfacing, signing and marking. Fatal and serious crashes have been reduced by 80% on 15 stretches of UK roads, which saw 237 people killed and seriously injured in the three years before the action was taken, but 52 after.
“The annual economic saving of these interventions is £25m or £110,000 per kilometre.”
The Road Safety Foundation is calling for the Government to set a national goal of all A roads achieving a minimum 3-star safety threshold and 4- and 5-star ratings for busiest A roads and motorways
James Bradford adds: “The busier the road, the more frequently any flaw in layout leads to death and serious injury. The Foundation welcomes Government’s increasing recognition of the need to focus action on this network where the risk of death and serious injury is unacceptably high.
“In the last few years, our understanding has grown that the in-built risks on each stretch of road can be measured. The in-built safety of road infrastructure, like cars, can be measured and star rated.
“We should not be driving 5-star cars on 1- and 2-star roads. It is time to set a national goal that our ‘A’ roads should achieve a minimum 3- star safety rating with 4- and 5-star ratings for our busiest trunk roads and motorways.”
The report says the UK’s “persistently highest-risk road” is a stretch of the A285 in West Sussex between Chichester and Petworth, which “tops the list of high-risk and medium-high risk roads which have shown little or no change over time”. The safety measures taken so far are not enough to tackle the route, according to the Foundation.
The report also highlights “major differences in regional performance”. As an example, it says the risk of death and serious injury is two thirds higher on the major roads of the East Midlands than it is in the West Midlands.
The varying regional risk is mainly due to the volume of travel on “safe” and “risky” roads. The report says even an average single carriageway ‘A’ road is seven times riskier than a motorway, and some roads represent more than 20 times the risk of others.