COUNCILS THAT overspend on highways maintenance budgets stand a better chance of reducing road accident casualties than those which underspend, newly released research suggests.
The biggest overspenders in 2002 all saw casualty figures fall, according to AA Motoring Trust figures.
Some underspenders also saw accident rates fall, but by a smaller amount, it said.
The Trust's head of roads and transport policy Paul Watters studied casualty data relating to the biggest over- and underspenders.
His study showed that casualties rose in many areas where authorities diverted highways cash to other fields.
Information gathered for 12 overspending authorities indicated a net reduction of 2,163 casualties in 2002 compared to a four-year average from 1994 to 1998.
The AA research shows that 19 underspending local authorities also saw accident rates fall, but by only 1,234.
'It is highly significant that not one of the overspending authorities showed any increase in road casualties, ' said Watters.
'The picture is less clear-cut regarding the cash diverting authorities. At the extreme end one council did not spend any of its officially agreed and earmarked revenue yet personal injury casualties still fell by 105.
'But another council which diverted its budget by one-third ended up with an additional 338 personal injury casualties.'
Department for Transport head of maintenance Ian Holmes said local authorities were underspending on highway maintenance by an average between 7% and 8%. This equates to £150M to £200M across the country.