Report highlights potential to save lives

12.00 | 3 November 2014 | | 5 comments

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.



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    I’m not sure where your 19k comes from? And Ponzi does suggest a deliberate intent to deceive on the part of the government which, given the current state of our finances for road casualty reduction activity, it would be somewhat ironic to see them conspiring to boost the figures on costs.

    A key feature of contingency valuation is that it helps to create a consistent measure and account, in some tangible way, for the unaccountable. It enables common ground to be established for a dialogue between things which have a price (eg capital works on the highway) and things which have a value (eg the grief experienced by someone involved in, or the indirect victim of, a collision). Perfect science? No, of course not. A necessary undertaking? Absolutely.

    Personally, I’m neither actuary nor accountant – I’m the client. I use these figures as a guide and they are useful in that context. I don’t expect them to be perfect and a quick gallop through many threads on this site demonstrate that we are all struggling with imperfect data and analysis all the time. For example, your assertion that the net cost to the economy is nil on the basis of the analysis presented in your third paragraph. ‘’Not convinced?’’ Gosh, where to start…

    Jeremy, Devon
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    Is Jeremy really claiming that the DfT’s valuation of a fatal accident as being £1.9bn or so when the real cost to the State is about £19,000 is irrelevant? If not, what does he mean?

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    There are three elements to this story and really the contingency valuation issue is languishing at No3. It’s an established methodology that permits comparison, prioritisation and a wider understanding of unseen (and therefore otherwise unaccounted) costs. Since investments in safety measures don’t even come close to the valuations placed on incidents the debate about the numbers is somewhat academic.

    Of more interest is the intervention strategy discussed. Certainly it’s something I’ve been looking at in a post collision-cluster world where what remains are dispersed collision patterns over wider areas that are more expensive (not to mention more complex) to treat. Assuming the basic principle that a maintenance project need not mean a like-for-like replacement and that a non-safety focussed treatment is therefore a great opportunity to reduce casualties is smart, simple thinking that will serve well those struggling to find capital funding for pure safety projects.

    As to star ratings for roads – an interesting prospect with several potential bear traps. But I do look forward to a time when travellers are able to make informed choices about mode, route and time based on an understanding of comparative risk. No one will use it of course – they’ll still travel by the mode the enjoy at the time that’s convenient on the route they are used to, but one can try.

    Jeremy, Devon
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    Delighted to read this, but the average figure of £135k per KSI avoided as an “economic saving”, almost certainly based on the DfT’s absurd values, is in Ponzi if not Madoff territory.

    Why? More than half of the figure is the hypothetical sum a handful of people and a few university towns told researchers they would be “willing to pay” to avoid such accidents – and is therefore not a cash saving at all, and most if the rest is “lost output” the casualty would have produced, had he been able.

    Brace yourself please for this, as told to me in a DfT reply 6 months ago – “lost output is calculated “net” (i.e. without deducting lost consumption. 30m workers support 60m people, so average consumption is half average output. The average age of a road fatality is 43 hence lost output (unless of course someone else takes over, which is almost inevitable) is for some 20 years but average lifespan of 85 years means some 40 years of lost consumption – net cost to the economy economy NIL.

    Not convinced? Then consider the effect of everyone being killed on the road the day he retires – no need to build houses, no need for tens of thousands of carers or thousands of care homes, no need to pay into pension funds, very clearly a substantial net cash benefit for those who remain (excluding me, sadly.)

    Idris Francis Fight Back With Facts Petersfield
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    I am glad that an organisation has identified dangerous roads made with a lack of insight as to the dangers caused by poor engineering or surfacing, or just general decay or tree and shrub growth, or poor junction design or installation and sighting of inappropriate signage or street furnishings etc.

    There are to my mind many such roads and the end result is a road that lends itself to increase dangers for users. Just like vehicle or tyre defects it’s a contributory factor that is very frequently missed or overlooked as causation. I am glad that there is an organisation that can identify these factors and commence putting it right.

    bob Craven Lancs
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