Around 6,000 lives could be saved on Britain’s roads over the next 10 years if a fraction of the money currently being spend on road maintenance was used more effectively, according to a new Road Safety Foundation report.
The foundation claimed accidents on our roads cost the British economy a staggering £30bn a year, with the majority taking place on busy, ‘targetable’ motorways and main roads.
And while the bill for these accidents tends to fall on the National Health Service, the report suggests the costs (as estimated by the Department for Transport) that fall on consumers and the emergency services is poorly understood.
Saving Lives, Saving Money
The Road Safety Foundation’s report, ‘Saving Lives, Saving Money: the costs and benefits of achieving safe roads’, investigated how much it would cost to bring safety flaws on main roads, such as missing safety fencing and unsafe junction layouts, up to a reasonable level, and the savings these upgrades would achieve.
As a result, it has urged an investment of £8bn out of the existing road budget between now and 2020 to make British roads safer.
Part of the foundation’s recommendation is a star rating system for roads, with a real focus on generating and evaluating safety schemes to improve 1- and 2-star roads and upgrade safety standards on dual carriageways and motorways.
And there is a strong focus on cost evaluation, too. This includes examining value for money being invested into road safety by Parliament and The Treasury, the long-term financial expense of road crashes for healthcare and emergency services, and studies from other countries where insurance costs have been driven down through improved safety.
Crash cost on main roads is more than £1m per km
Professor Stephen Glaister, Director of the RAC Foundation, said: ‘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.
‘Why do we continue to tolerate unsafe roads when the cost of bringing the network up to minimum standards is within what we already spend on our roads? It beggars belief that we are not redirecting resources to where they would be most beneficial.’
Chairman of the Road Safety Foundation, Lord Dubs, spoke of the high-return for making safety improvements, adding: ‘Engineering improvements are typically low cost and last decades. Without using a simple measurement of infrastructure safety like star rating, road engineers will remain tongue-tied in trying to explain what can be achieved through proven measures. Without normal methods of cost-benefit analysis, high-return safety programmes will continue to be ignored in favour of programmes that are well evaluated.
‘This report reveals that the average serious crash cost on a main road is more than £1m per kilometre in a decade.
‘Such a high concentration explains why simple safety improvements can routinely pay back their costs within a year – and then go on saving lives and money on emergency services, hospitals and long-term care.’
Get more from Which? Car
Magazine: Which? Car magazine is the UK’s only independent car guide (we don’t take ads, so our reviews are totally impartial). The Winter 2011 issue is the first of the new look Which? Car, packed with more new and used car reviews than ever before. We’ve dedicated more pages to in-depth reviews of all the major cars on sale today, helping you to make the most educated decision about buying a new or used car. It’s on sale now, priced at £4.99, available from Sainsbury’s, Tesco, WH Smith, Martin McColl and good independent newsagents.
Email: Stay in touch with all the up-to-date car news, hot deals, latest first drives and reviews posted on our website each week. Sign up to the Which? weekly email to receive our free Friday bulletin.