The coalition Government is set to lop £17.2 million from the road safety budget as part of its attempt to shore up the hole in the country’s finances.
The decision to remove money from local authority capital grants has been slammed by road safety organisations as a “false economy”.
Roslyn Cumming, Brake’s Fleet Safety Forum manager, said: “It’s desperately worrying that such substantial cuts are being planned from an area as essential as road safety.
"Any fleet manager who has taken steps to manage their risk could tell you that the costs of implementing road safety strategies are far outweighed by the benefits – any cuts to this vital area would be a false economy.”
However, Will Murray, research director at Interactive Driving Systems, believes the Government’s decision to cut the road safety budget could have positive implications.
“There is a lot of duplication in the road safety industry with lots of different local authority groups bringing out their own initiatives,” he says.
“If the cuts promote a smarter way of local governments working together then they could be beneficial.”
Brake’s concerns are backed by a new report into European road safety which urges national governments to “reduce the needless personal loss caused by crashes”.
The report by EuroRAP (the European Road Assessment Programme) reveals that just over half of Britain and Ireland’s roads (53%) have a ‘low risk’ rating.
The region is ranked fourth safest in Europe.
Sweden is top, where 85% of the network achieved a low risk rating. Italy was ranked bottom on 4%.
The study also highlighted different risk rates within Britain and Ireland’s Trans-European Transport Networks (known as TEN-T roads).
Scotland is twice as risky as Wales and England; Northern Ireland is safer than the Republic, but it is less safe than England and Wales.
EuroRAP also rates sections of the A82 between Glasgow, Fort William and Inverness as being very high risk.
Differences can be partly explained by the lack of consistency in the British road network.
“This report provides challenges for the new Government to bring UK roads up to the safety standards achieved by countries such as Sweden,” said Cumming.
“It’s unacceptable that almost half of UK and Irish major roads still do not meet EuroRAP criteria for best possible safety conditions.”
While it used to be believed that single carriageways could not achieve the same safety performance as motorways, EuroRAP says recent Swedish designs have resulted in single carriageway designs with safety records exceeding that of motorways.
It believes that English, Scottish and Welsh policy might benefit from a debate similar to that taking place in countries such as Sweden, Ireland and Iceland where long distance routes with lower traffic levels cannot justify full dual carriageways.
EuroRAP estimates that more than 20,000 deaths and serious injuries take place on the TEN-T road network each year, costing the European economy more than £8 billion.
“Immediate attention needs to be paid to older motorways and the safety standards of roads which will never justify motorway status or for which the wait for finance will be measured in decades,” said John Dawson, chairman of EuroRAP.
“Safe road design is paramount in reducing casualties on our roads and providing a safe infrastructure.”
Europe's risky roads by numbers
- 25,400 miles The length of TEN-T roads currently rated using EuroRAP Risk Mapping
- 15% The amount of the network – more than 3,728m – that has unacceptably high risk
- 31% Less than one-third (31%) of the EuroRAP TEN-T network length has the ‘best possible’ safety standard
- 50% The amount of EuroRAP TEN-T single carriageway rated as high risk
- 15 Number of countries with EuroRAP safety ratings of the TEN-T road network
- 5% Estimated number of deaths on Europe’s roads that take place on the TEN-T road network