The Road Safety Foundation’s recent report identifies costs of £2.1 billion from crashes on the Strategic Road Network in England alone, during 2011-13.
Wales has the highest risk of death or serious injury (known as KSIs) per vehicle kilometre, whereas the West Midlands has the lowest. The latter has a more developed motorway network, whereas in Wales it can sometimes be faster to travel through the West Midlands than to journey from north to south through Wales. The UK is, however, one of the safest countries in Europe, and three times as safe per head of population as the United States.
A few rural roads are particularly popular with motorcyclists with this showing in the statistics, however on some, cyclists and pedestrians account for more KSIs. Whilst much of the media attention is on junctions in London where large numbers of cycle casualties occur, the risk to individual cyclists is much higher on rural roads where many people would not wish to cycle at all. Highways England (formerly the Highways Agency) is committed to “near zero deaths or injuries” by 2040.
The cost of traffic casualties on rural A roads is much higher than with motorways, at a cost of £19 per thousand vehicle km; against £3 per thousand vehicle km on motorways.
Caroline Moore, author of the Road Safety Foundation report, states: “This gives a clear understanding of where Highways England can focus its efforts to make its whole network safer overall, and address its £2.1bn crash costs.”
Such measures would also serve to reduce the regional inequalities in risk, potentially bringing rural areas up to the standard of more urbanised parts of the country.
The A21 is recognised as the highest risk strategic road, with a 23km single carriageway section north of Hastings. Measures to improve this include highlighting the presence of villages and standardising road designs, as well as revised speed limits and a feasibility study into average speed cameras. As the most frequent cause of fatal collisions on rural A roads are run-off accidents, efforts to remove obstacles or provide suitable guard-rails are also effective.
By Christopher Waller