Making Road Travel As Safe As Rail And Air – Road Safety Foundation Annual Analysis

Monday, November 14, 2016 - 16:26
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police in road

“Travelling on our road system could be made as safe as on rail and air within a generation.” This is the message of this year’s analysis of crashes on the British network of motorways and A roads outside urban cores, carried out by charity The Road Safety Foundation, and sponsored by Ageas UK.

The same systematic approach to measuring and managing risks needs to be applied to roads as that taken by industries ranging from medicine to mining as well as aviation and rail.  Road deaths are now 10 times greater than all deaths in all workplaces added together. Not a single rail passenger or worker has been killed over the last nine consecutive years, while commercial airline travel is even safer than rail. On highways, there is greater discipline protecting road workers from risks than the general public using them, the report says.

Some key facts in the report:

  • For the first time, the South East is the area with highest rate of death and serious injury on the network
  • In the South East, risk is over 80% higher than the risk for the network in the West Midlands, the English region with the lowest rate of death and serious injury
  • The cost of road crashes in Hampshire, Kent and Essex each exceed £0.5 billion over the three year data period 2012-14
  • England’s most improved strategic road is a 13km section of the A1 near Newcastle
  • The largest single cause of death is running off the road (29%); the largest cause of serious injury is at junctions (33%)
  • An estimated 2% of total GDP is lost in road crashes
  • Highways England handles the biggest single crash costs of any authority: £2.1 billion over the three year period
  • Report calls for government to boost the economy by investing in proven measures to deliver safer infrastructure and tackle unacceptably high risk roads




Regional findings

  • This year’s Foundation report, Making Road Travel as Safe as Rail and Air also highlights the regions with the highest risk roads. It lists persistently high risk roads with little or no change, and highlights the modest actions by authorities on the 10 most improved roads that led to local falls in serious crashes from 168 to 53 (-68%).



Among Britain’s top 10 most improved roads

This year’s most improved road is the A227 between Tonbridge and the A25 near Borough Green. Kent County Council is responsible for this road, and has introduced a routine maintenance regime. In addition to a signing and lining package, there are yellow backed signs in hazardous locations, good use of double white lines, speed limit roundels and road safety education packages.

Two roads have moved from the highest level of risk (black):

  • The A809, this year’s fifth most improved road, was the highest risk road in Scotland in the 2012 and 2014 Performance Tracking results. A series of measures has improved the A809 – in particular, visibility for drivers, by ensuring a high standard of signing, lining and road studs and by removing roadside hazards. Vehicle activated signs and high friction surfacing have also been implemented.
  • The A537 between Macclesfield and Buxton (“The Cat and Fiddle Pass”) once topped the ‘persistently higher risk roads’ tables regularly in the annual Performance Tracking results. Last year, the road featured for the first time in the table of ‘most improved roads’. The measures that were implemented by the Cheshire Safer Road Partnership and Cheshire East Council (formerly Cheshire County Council) have enabled the road to have significantly improved between 2009 and 2014. These include the implementation of motorcycle friendly barriers and average speed cameras. The road reduced from a significantly high level of risk to a medium-high risk.

Improved roads are those where there has been a statistically significant reduction in the number of fatal and serious crashes over time. Only 2% of roads on the Risk Mapped network have shown a significant reduction in fatal and serious crashes.

Between 2009-11 and 2012-14, fatal and serious crashes on the roads listed fell by 68% from 168 to 53. This led to an annual economic saving for fatal and serious crashes of £20 million in 2013 values, or £112,000 per kilometre, with a net present value worth approximately £0.3 billion over 20 years.

A list of Britain’s top 10 most improved roads is in the report and accompanies this release as a pdf.

Top 10 persistently higher risk roads

England’s most persistent high risk road is the A285 between Chichester and Petworth in West Sussex. It is a rural, winding road located within the South Downs National Park. It is popular with motorcyclists who account for 39% of crashes causing death or serious injury. Half of the crashes causing death or serious injury occur from running off the road.

In previous reports the roads listed were concentrated in the North West and the East Midlands regions. However, roads in the South East of England now account for 5 of the 10 roads featured.

A list of the top 10 persistently higher risk roads in Britain is in the report and accompanies this release as a pdf.

This report presents more detailed regional results [see accompanying notes.]

Highways England roads

The report shows analysis and maps for Highways England, the corporation responsible for England’s strategic roads.  The company’s stated goal is to bring the number of people killed or injured on the network as close as possible to zero by 2040.  This goal is matched by immediate, measurable reductions in risk levels it must achieve by 2020 to satisfy its regulator.

Highways England plans to address the high risk roads on its strategic road network – some that have been on the list for years – with focus on its busy single carriageways.

  • Highways England’s highest risk road is the 23km stretch of the A21 between Hurst Green and Hastings. The road is entirely rural and passes through several villages. In this year’s report, the road is medium-high risk, with crashes concentrated at junctions and bends.

Road Safety Foundation Chairman, Lord Whitty says: “A lifetime of care for a single trauma victim can cost more than £20m. This report identifies the authorities with high costs from road crashes, and shows how risks can be reduced and lives saved with economic returns that are higher, quicker and more certain than from most projects competing for funds.

“We can now identify roads where risk is 20-times higher on some roads than others; and regions where the risk of death and serious injury on the main roads might be twice that of another.”

“Highways England plans to address the long ignored high risk roads on its strategic road network, not least its busy single carriageways.  Plans now need to be prepared and turned into action. The section of A21 identified in this report in particular is the highest risk road on the English strategic road network.

“All the persistent high risk roads identified in this report have rates of death and serious injury that are unacceptable. Some have been on the list for years. For the government’s new safety strategy to succeed, it must help remove the cultural and institutional obstacles that permit this chronic loss of life to continue,” says Lord Whitty.

The report has been funded by Britain’s third largest motor insurer, Ageas UK, since 2012.

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