The high costs of emergency services, hospitals and long term care for the disabled can often be avoided through little more than the cost of a pot of paint, according to the annual road tracking survey carried out by the Road Safety Foundation.
Road crashes are Britain’s largest cause of premature death, and the Road Safety Foundation’s annual survey identifies specific roads that are 10 times more prone to death and serious injury than others in the UK’s network.
One-third of all fatal and serious collisions occur at junctions, single carriageways are six times the risk of motorways and twice that of duals and one in seven primary roads is high risk compared to one in 33 non-primary.
Topping the list of the UK’s 10 most improved roads is the A40 Llandovery-Carmarthen, where junctions have been upgraded, new road markings introduced and extensive resurfacing carried out, including anti-skid treatments, saving 20 fatal and serious collisions between 2006 and 2008 - a 74% reduction.
Consultation with road authorities on improvements show that simple, relatively inexpensive engineering measures are paying dividends, contributing to more than 70% fewer fatal and serious collision in the last three years on the top ten roads listed.
Improvements to signing and markings, resurfacing, particularly the use of high-friction anti-skid treatments, and the layout and signing of junctions are common.
The report lists the UK’s 10 persistently higher risk roads which have shown little or no change since the earlier report covering 2003-2005.
Top of this year’s persistently higher risk roads is the A537 between Macclesfield and Buxton, known nationally as the Cat and Fiddle.
A 50mph single carriageway, running through the Peak District National Park, the route has severe bends, steep falls from the carriageway and is edged by dry-stone walls or rock face for almost all of its length. It is popular with tourists, heavy goods vehicles and high-powered leisure motorcyclists.
Fatal and serious collisions on this section have risen by 127% in the last three years rising from 15 in 2003-2005 to 34 in 2006-2008, with most crashes at weekends during the summer in dry, daylight conditions.
Police records show that the vast majority of casualties were motorcyclists, from outside the local area, male, and with an average age of 35.
Most of the higher risk roads are in the north of the country, with almost all in the North-West, Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands.
The Road Safety Foundation report also lists the UK’s top 10 highest risk roads when collisions involving motorcyclists are excluded. These are not traditionally scenic routes or tourist areas, but tend to be a combination of rural and more built-up sections, with frequent junctions, varying speed limits and used heavily by local commuters.
Topping this list is the A18 from the A16 (Ludborough) to the A46 at Laceby in Humberside. Most of these roads are single carriageway A roads, with nine of the 10 in the North-west and Yorkshire and the Humber regions.
Dr Joanne Hill, director of the Road Safety Foundation, said: “As the road budget becomes tighter, emphasis must be on saving lives with less. It means systematic attention to detail, prioritising treatment of the highest risk routes most likely to benefit from low-cost, high-return countermeasures.
“This years report shows that not only can Britain reduce roads deaths and serious injuries but that, by targeting a relatively small mileage of high risk roads, we can do so with good economic returns. Too often we pay for emergency services, hospitals and care for the disabled rather than taking easy steps to put road design faults right.
“There are practical examples of how, with attention to detail, some authorities are slashing the toll of death and serious injury on high risk stretches by as much as three-quarters. Simple, relatively inexpensive engineering measures, such as improvements to signing and lining, resurfacing and the layout of signals at junctions, are paying dividends and are affordable particularly when done as part of well planned routine maintenance.”