Two roads highlighted in Road Safety Foundation report

Highways Reporters

A report carried out by the Road Safety Foundation shows that the A404 in Buckinghamshire is Britain’s most improved road while the A285 in West Sussex is the highest risk road.  

A report out today entitled ‘Engineering Safer Roads: Star Rating Roads for in-built safety’, provides local authorities faced with the challenge of reducing road deaths and serious injuries on their network, with access to a list of initiatives they can take to target risk points, along with the cost and value of the benefits each initiative brings.

With half of road deaths concentrated on just 10% of the busy main road network outside major towns and cities, targeting can pay substantial dividends, the report says. Risks on different sections of road vary tenfold as the same drivers in the same vehicles turn from one road section into another. Risks also vary according to the type of road user, but the majority of road deaths remain to car occupants. Road deaths are concentrated on country roads outside major towns and cities at speeds where the vehicle’s protection alone is not enough to safeguard against brutal impacts at junctions, with roadside objects and in head-on crashes.

“Getting the most out of existing budgets is an imperative,” says Caroline Moore, author of the Road Safety Foundation Report. “Serious road crashes are expensive and this report shows that interventions are often simple and cost effective. As central government increasingly devolves responsibility for the costs of health and long term care, there are now new reasons for local authorities to study the cost of road crashes on their road network and why bringing ‘A’ roads up to a minimum three-star standard for in-built safety in the period to 2030 makes sense.”

Case study: A404 Buckinghamshire – the UK’s most improved road

Between 2007-09, the six mile (9 km) stretch of the A404 between the M25 and Amersham suffered two deaths and serious injuries every mile and was rated medium-high risk. Two-thirds of the 12 crashes involved vehicle occupants; for these road users the majority of the route scored two-star.

Discussions with Buckinghamshire and Hertfordshire County Councils revealed the authorities had carried out a programme of low cost and straightforward measures that included re-surfacing, improved road markings, lowering the speed limit and improving pedestrian crossings on a stretch where pedestrians were especially vulnerable. Together with improvements from behaviour and vehicles, fatal and serious crashes involving vehicle occupants were cut by 88%; while deaths and injuries to pedestrians fell from four to zero in the 2010-12 period. The road now has an overall three-star score for both vehicle occupants and pedestrians and has a low risk rating.

Case study: A285 West Sussex – the UK’s persistently higher risk road

The A285 is a challenge for the road authority, West Sussex County Council. In 2014, Road Safety Foundation reported that the risk increased by 17% between 2007-09 and 2010-12 – against a background of a national reduction in crashes.

The road, between Chichester and Petworth, is 12 miles (19 km) long and 47 people were killed or seriously injured on it in during the two periods analysed in the 2014 report (2007-12). 96% of the deaths and serious injuries were to vehicle occupants and motorcyclists.

Just 15% of the road achieves a desired three-star minimum rating for vehicle occupants and motorcyclists. 25% of the route scores one-star for vehicle occupants; 35% for motorcyclists.

Interventions proposed by the Road Safety Foundation for detailed investigation include rumble strips along roadside edges, central lane hatching, clearance of roadside hazards, street lighting, and marking improvements.

Most safety engineering infrastructure improvements would deliver savings in road trauma for many years after installation, with a spend of £3m giving an economic return of £11m over the economic life of the investment; while some proposed interventions at specific points that might repay costs four times over. Forty five deaths and serious injuries might be expected to be saved over the next 20 years on this small route, and if implemented, 100% of the route would score three-star minimum for vehicle occupants.

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