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Road maintenance changes "could save 6,000 lives"

As many as 6,000 lives could be saved on Britain’s roads over the next 10 years if just a fraction of the money being spent on road maintenance was used more effectively, a report has said.

Britain loses up to £30bn annually in the cost of road crashes, most of which happen on motorways and main roads, according to the report for the RAC Foundation by the Road Safety Foundation.

The report showed how, within existing budgets, roads rated only 1-star and 2-star in terms of safety could be improved in the next decade, with benefits worth £25-£35bn.

Achieving the savings would need road authority leaders being offered guidance to focus on the full costs and benefits of saving the most lives for the money available.

The report said the total cost of crashes was well estimated by the Department for Transport but the way costs fell on families, business, carers, NHS, emergency services and the insurance industry was poorly understood.

It said the cost of fatal and serious crashes on the Highways Agency’s network of England motorways and major A roads amounted to £1.2bn annually. The cost of serious crashes on English local authority A roads was £2bn.

The report proposed a 10-year safety programme, costing less than 10% of existing road budgets, to bring main roads with safety flaws up to scratch.

Flaws in such roads include missing safety fencing and unsafe junction layouts.

Among things called for in the report were technical improvements to the evaluation of crash costs and recording of serious crashes by police and hospitals, with more focus on long-term care and the true financial costs of road crashes to healthcare and emergency services.

“Given that Britons are more likely to die on the roads than in any other daily activity, this report should make us first angry, and then determined to act to see more lives saved - at little or no extra cost,” RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister.

“We will never prevent all road accidents but we can do a considerable amount to reduce their effects simply by improving the road environment and making it as forgiving as possible. We understand road risks well enough to know how to cut this grim toll of death and injury, yet we fail to implement cheap and effective measures to combat them.”

“It beggars belief that we are not redirecting resources to where they are most beneficial.”

Readers' comments (1)

  • "... at little or no extra cost,” RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister."
    "costing less than 10% of existing road budgets, "

    So if road existing budgets were increased by 10% and that money was earmarked for safety mprovements on A Roads only ... then some savings to society woudl be realised.

    It is a shame that, even before the current cuts, back in the good old spend-spend-spend days of New Labour, the budget allocated to Local Government for Highway maintenance and safety improvements was sufficiently inadequate that the shortfall was valued in the tens of Billions back in 2006.

    Under the current tightening of belts, we see 50% cuts in budgets which were already woefully inadequate.

    Perhaps Professor Glaister needs to re-examine his understanding of government spending on roads before pronouncing that only a small increase could save many lives. With current budgets, we can't even maintain the status quo of thens of thousands of potholes, numbers of failing bridges and other highway structures, and unnecessarily high accident rates.

    Daniel Preston
    Senior Highway Engineer
    Kirlees Council

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

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