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Eliminating high risk roads in England

  • Wednesday February 28, 2018

A high-risk road is like a staircase without a hand rail – and we know what to do to reduce risk to users in both cases. This is the basis of a presentation by Dr Suzy Charman, Executive Director of charity the Road Safety Foundation, at a conference* in London on 27th February.

Dr Charman will outline the Foundation’s systematic approach, which combines reactive risk mapping – measuring the number and nature of crashes per vehicle kilometre travelled – and proactive star rating, which measures infrastructure risk.

The iRAP (International Road Assessment Programme) star rating process is proven and accepted worldwide, with some 900,000km of roads star rated globally.

In the UK, Highways England has committed to 90% of travel on its roads being on 3 star or above by 2020, and is increasingly focusing on its 1 and 2 star roads. Fifty of England’s highest-risk local authority A-roads are already on track to becoming safer, thanks to the government’s £175 million Safer Roads Fund. Those 50 roads have been inspected and proposals made to DfT for high-return effective treatments to be implemented.

“Safer Road Investment Plans (SRIPs) give road safety engineers an overview of the types of measures that might be effective in managing the risk on their roads and show the economic rate of return,” she says. “Road safety engineers can use this information together with their expertise and local knowledge to refine into a tailored User-Defined Investment Plan.”

In this approach, roads are video-surveyed, and then more than 50 road features that are known to influence crash likelihood and severity are coded every 100 metres along the route. The data are combined with supporting records such as speed surveys, road user flows and crash distribution and is uploaded into ViDA, a specialist online analysis tool devised.

To date, nearly 80 local authority road engineers have been trained in using the guidelines and software to assist their funding bids.

“Local authorities which have been part of the Safer Roads programme are already embracing the iRAP approach, and are delighted to have the opportunity and budget to improve these high-risk roads.  Some authorities have even commissioned the RSF to undertake additional surveys on roads of concern that fall outside of the remit of the ‘Safer Roads Fund’.

“A lifetime of care for a single trauma victim can cost more than £20m. We have identified the authorities with high costs from road crashes, and shown how risks can be reduced and lives saved with economic returns that are higher, quicker and more certain than from most projects competing for funds.

“We have identified roads where risk is 20-times higher than on others. Counter-measures are typically simple: often this is down to installing centre-lane hatching; rumble strips and safe recovery zones at the side of the road; protective right-turn pockets; and high-friction treatments on bends.

“We would not accept an unsafe staircase, and we should not accept unsafe roads.”

*Dr Suzy Charman is speaking at “Joining the Dots: Making Data the Common Language of Road Safety. This is the national conference for road safety data analysts, and is organised by Road Safety GB in partnership with Agilysis.

Aimed at road safety analysts, engineers and transport planners, the conference appeals to the wide range of professionals who use road safety data to drive their work. The agenda includes leading voices in data and research, covering topics including STATS19, other transport data, compliance and risk and evaluating schemes.

Media contact:
Hadstrong: Becky Hadley 020 7808 7997 /

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