According to a new assessment by the Road Safety Foundation (RSF) and the RAC Foundation, a £100m (US$129.3m) program of works is on course to prevent almost 1,450 deaths and serious injuries over the next two decades on the riskiest council-managed A roads (main roads) in England.
The £100m investment comes via the Safer Roads Fund that was created by the UK Department for Transport (DfT) in June, and is now being used to improve safety along 48 of the riskiest stretches of council-managed A roads in the country, as identified by the RSF’s analysis in 2016.
Money allocated from the Safer Roads Fund will be used to undertake a range of re-engineering work, some of it as simple and straightforward as putting in rumble strips and improving visibility at junctions and protecting or removing trees, poles or lighting columns. The work program is unique because it used a proactive approach to work out how to reduce risk on a road.
Traditionally, steps are taken to improve safety after a crash has occurred, while the ‘Safe System’ approach uses road engineering to try and prevent crashes from happening in the first place. Safe System working recognizes that humans are error prone and some crashes are inevitable. To improve the survivability of these crashes, roads and roadsides are re-engineered to make them more forgiving when an incident occurs. This type of risk management approach is already applied in areas as diverse as medicine, mining and aviation.
The analysis by the RSF and the RAC Foundation estimates the total value of the prevention of harm across the 48 schemes, over a 20-year period, is to be £550m (US$710.6m). The program across the 48 schemes will provide:
• 436 miles (702km) of road being targeted overall;
• 300 improved bends;
• 290 miles (467km) of improved roadside shoulders;
• 225 improved junctions;
• 150 miles (241km) of improved speed limits, enforcement and traffic calming;
• 135 new or improved pedestrian crossings;
• 90 miles (145km) of cleared or protected roadsides – e.g. crash barriers;
• 90 miles (145km) of improved visibility and signing;
• 80 miles (129km) of improved medians (hatching/wide centerlines);
• 70 miles (113km) of improved road surfaces;
• 20 miles (32km) of new or improved cycle facilities;
• 10 miles (16km) of new or improved footpaths.
Most of the councils submitting proposals to the DfT for finance from the Safer Roads Fund worked with the RSF to use the International Road Assessment Program (iRAP) tools to take a proactive risk management approach. This involved video surveying the roads, coding road features known to relate to crashes and their severity and using iRAP tools to direct the development of treatments.
The total economic cost of the project over the 20 years will be £125m (US$161.4m): the initial capital investment plus £25m (US$32.3m) of ongoing costs. Given the projected benefits of £550m (US$709m), this means that for every £1 (US$1.3) spent, there will be a societal benefit of £4.40 (US$5.7).
“Finding the right funding mechanisms for safety improvements to our road infrastructure is absolutely essential if we are to break the current plateau in the number of people being killed on our roads,” commented the RSF’s executive director, Dr Suzy Charman, who is leading the overall project. “The Safer Roads Fund has given us a truly innovative approach to tackling risky roads.”