I refer to the news item and the letter to the editor concerning the use of 'compact' junction designs featuring 'shorter' acceleration/
deceleration lanes than would normally be expected on high speed roads in the UK (NCE 21 January).
While 'compact' design minimises the impact on the environment - particularly important on controversial projects such as the Newbury bypass - it is important to remember that the total cost can be increased if many accidents occur and scheme changes have to be made.
Each road traffic accident generates a substantial cost in terms of resources, lost production, health care, social benefits, grief and suffering. Road accidents have been estimated to cost over £13bn per year.
It is vital that accident data is carefully monitored at all new types of junction. This information could be shared nationally, through organisations such as RoSPA, so we could make far more accurate predictions and judgements about the effects of design changes.
Both Road Safety Impact Assessments at the feasibility stages of scheme design and Road Safety Audits at the detailed design stages, require accurate accident data to inform and steer scheme proposals and final design decisions. These tools can often be used to supplement Environmental Impact Assessments when determining schemes' likely accident generation.
The use of Road Safety Audits and Road Safety Impact Assessments are as important as environmental considerations to ensure against road safety disbenefits. After all, as professional engineers, we should always aim to make it safe first time. How often has our profession received bad publicity when scheme alterations have been undertaken within a first year of a project's completion?
Paul E McCormick (M), Highways & Transportation Safety Manager, The Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), Edgbaston Park,Birmingham, B5 7ST