Safety must be government priority
The Prime Minister has set this autumn as the deadline for a radical review of the finance and ownership of the major road network. The Foundation has analysed the safety of Britain’s entire motorway and A road network and is calling on government to make safety central to any reform. It argues in the report that minimum safety levels should be set which make sense to the public, to investors and to new operators of Britain’s major road infrastructure.
For the first time, this year’s report has named Britain’s busy higher-risk roads, with the A21 (A229 to Hastings) topping the league, and two further roads in the south-east in the list. The combination of having risks well above average with many road users exposed to these risks makes them prime candidates for action both in potential to save life and economic cost.
Typically, the “highest risk” and “persistently high risk” roads – narrow, twisting, hilly – are in the rural areas of the north. Although apparently clear candidates for priority action, their lower traffic flows may not justify the spend on improvements.
The 10 busy higher-risk roads have higher than average traffic flows, a high crash density and an above-average risk rating.
Commenting on this new listing, Dr Joanne Marden, director of the Road Safety Foundation says: “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 cost savings to the economy of £20m annually.
“The planned reforms in road financing means 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.”
For the first time, the study is sponsored by Ageas UK, whose Chief Executive, Barry Smith says: “You cannot manage what you do not measure. As taxpayers, we spend around £10bn each year on roads. Insurers pay out £10bn more to meet the cost of crash claims. We support the Foundation’s annual publication as the key measure of the safety of Britain’s roads, demonstrating both the need for action on high risk roads and the positive results this can have.”