The UK’s local authority A road network needs an immediate injection of £200 million to tackle the high risk road sections, according to a report out today from charity the Road Safety Foundation, in partnership with Ageas UK.


In a major innovation last year, the government allocated £175m Safer Roads Fund to tackle a portfolio of the 50 most dangerous local A roads in England – roads posing the highest risk of death and serious injury to users. These roads have been inspected, remedial proposals prepared and the first findings will be reported in 2018.


In total, a further 6,111 kilometres on more than 550 sections of unacceptably high risk roads, shown in red or black on Road Safety Foundation risk mapping, will need to be addressed by the Safer Roads Fund in the drive to bring road deaths towards zero.


For the first time, the Road Safety Foundation/Ageas UK partnership has launched an interactive Road Crash Index which shows the level of road safety improvement (or declining performance) in each county between 2010-12 and 2013-15. It shows a county ranking based on improvement, the cost of injury road crashes in each county and the cost per head of population, together with risk maps for each county and any improved or persistently higher risk roads.   The interactive includes an opportunity to tweet or email relevant MPs to ask them to support road safety investment.

The report, Cutting the Cost of Dangerous Roads, identifies that on the EuroRAP network of Motorways and A roads (the 10% of the road network that contains half of all road deaths):

  • Great Britain’s highest risk road is the A537 between Macclesfield and Buxton, known as the Cat and Fiddle, in the Peak District
  • This year’s most improved road is the A4151 in Gloucestershire from Nailbridge to the A48
  • Single carriageway ‘A’ roads are 7 times the risk of motorways and nearly 3 times the risk of dual carriageway ‘A’ roads
  • The largest single cause of death on the network was run-off road crashes (30%)
  • The largest single cause of serious injury on the network was crashes at junctions (33%)
  • High risk single carriageway roads are 67 times more risky than low risk single carriageways.


These findings are in a context of:

  • The number of people killed on Britain’s roads increased by 4% from 1,730 in 2015 to 1,792 in 2016, the highest annual total since 2011
  • On average, 71 people are killed or seriously injured on Britain’s roads every day
  • 51% of fatal casualties occurred on non-built-up roads – just 10% of the total road network
  • 5% of fatal casualties occurred on motorways
  • Road traffic crashes cost the British economy £36 billion.


Top 10 Most Improved Roads

Improved roads are those where there has been a statistically significant reduction in the number of fatal and serious crashes over time. Only 1% of road sections on the Risk Mapped network have shown a significant reduction in fatal and serious crashes. 

Between 2010-12 and 2013-15, fatal and serious crashes on the top 10 ‘most improved roads’ roads  [see attached pdf] fell by 74% from 145 to 37. This led to an annual economic saving for fatal and serious crashes of £17m in 2014 values, or £149,000 per kilometre, with a net present value worth approximately £125 million over 20 years.


This year’s most improved road stretch is the A4151 which starts at the junction with the A4136 and ends at the junction with the A48.  Gloucestershire County Council attributes the reduction in crashes to a new 20mph zone in Cinderford, resurfacing the road, revising road markings, marker posts and signing in 2012; plus a new pedestrian crossing at Littledean in 2015 at the end of the second data period.  This work cost an estimated £201,300 to complete.


Top Ten Persistently Higher Risk Roads

Roads that are persistently higher risk have an average of at least one fatal or serious crash per mile along their length in the three-year survey period.  The road will have been rated high or medium-high risk in both data periods (2010-12 and 2013-15) and will have seen no significant change in performance over time.  The top 10 roads [see attached pdf] have an average annual daily traffic (AADF) flow of over 12,000 vehicles, ranging from just under 5,000 per day to around 22,000.


In the 2016 analysis all of the local ‘A’ roads featured in this list were also in the top 50 highest risk local ‘A’ roads and eligible for funding from DfT’s Safer Road Fund.  The list below highlights a further three persistently higher risk local ‘A’ roads and one trunk road.  In total there are 36 persistently higher risk roads that are not being addressed by the Safer Roads Fund, with a total length of 472km and associated economic loss of £195 million over 3 years.


For many years, the persistently higher risk roads list was dominated by roads in the North and the Midlands.  This year’s report confirms the findings of last year that the most acute problems are now being seen in the South East.  Six of the 10 persistently higher risk roads are in the South East.


Highest risk road in the UK

The road at the top of this year’s list is the A537 between Macclesfield and Buxton, known as the Cat and Fiddle, in the Peak District.  This short section of road has been listed in the persistently higher risk list 6 times in the last 10 years.  At its peak in around 2006 to 2009 there were around 10 fatal and serious crashes on average every year. Two-thirds of all fatal and serious crashes involved a motorcyclist, which reflects their high usage of the route.  Although this road section has seen significant improvement over time, the rate of death and serious injuries injury rate remains unacceptable.


Improvements reported to date by the Cheshire East Council and Cheshire Road Safety Group include average speed cameras and installing “motorcycle friendly” barriers and average speed cameras. The route is also eligible for the DfT’s new Safer Roads Fund and Cheshire East Council has submitted a proposal that includes upgrading the average speed camera system, carriageway surface treatment work, replacement and improvement of road markings and vehicle restraint systems, and replacement of existing advanced poor weather warning signs.


Vulnerable road users: changing trends

Successive lists of persistently higher risk roads were dominated by roads with a high proportion of crashes involving motorcycles.  This year’s report shows two roads in the top 10 roads with more than 50% of the crashes involving motorcyclists. However, five of the roads in this table now have more than 50% of crashes involving pedestrians and cyclists.


English strategic road network (SRN) managed by Highways England

Highways England has set a clear long-term goal to bring the number of people killed or injured on its 6,883 km network as close as possible to zero by 2040. It has committed that, by the end of 2020, 90% of travel on the roads for which it has responsibility will be on roads with a 3-star safety rating or better. The report shows that:

  • Between 2010-12 and 2013-15 risk reduced by 3.5%
  • 90% of motorway travel is now on low risk sections
  • 23% of dual carriageway travel is on low risk sections
  • Only 1% of travel on single carriageways is on low risk sections, 8% is on medium-high risk sections.
  • The A14 between Junction 55 and Junction 58 to the South of Ipswich is the most improved road section on the English SRN
  • The A21 between Hurst Green and Hastings is the highest risk road on the English SRN. 


Key Local Authority road findings:

  • 19% of local authority roads by length are high risk or medium-high risk and as such have unacceptably high levels of risk
  • These unacceptably high risk roads carry 13% of local authority traffic
  • A greater proportion of travel on single carriageway roads is on unacceptably high risk roads in England and Wales in comparison to Scotland 
  • All dual carriageways in Scotland and Wales are low or medium-low risk, whereas some dual carriageways in England remain medium or medium-high risk. 


Road Safety Foundation Chairman, Lord Whitty says: “Last year’s innovative allocation of funds to tackle a portfolio of the 50 most dangerous roads in England enabled the introduction of a new systematic and proactive approach to cutting the social and economic cost of road crashes. It has been warmly welcomed by councils and authorities and ushers in a new era of best practice. Known high risks are identified through research. Roads are inspected along their length so that risks can be systematically identified and then removed, often before people are killed or hurt.”


The report has been funded by Britain’s third largest motor insurer, Ageas UK, since 2012. Chief Executive, Andy Watson, says: “Every day, Ageas deals with customers who have been involved in road crashes, and our employees support them through what can be a very distressing time.  We want to help bring the number of road crashes towards zero.


“Since 2012, we’ve been proud to support the Road Safety Foundation with its systematic measurement, mapping and tracking of the safety performance of Britain’s roads. For the first time this information has been created as an interactive Road Crash Index that you can use to identify which roads in your area are high risk and need attention. Simply using the Road Crash Index you can see how your county ranks in Britain and the cost of road crashes locally. We urge you to take a look and use it to encourage your MP to support our call for road improvement programmes.”


Notes to editors

The detailed data used to produce these results was commissioned from TRL Limited and included the creation of the British EuroRAP network of road sections, assignment of crashes and traffic data to individual routes and classification of crash types. County data used in the Road Crash Index was provided by Road Safety Analysis using MAST Online.


The full report is temporarily available at here and will be on the Road Safety Foundation website on Tuesday 21 November.


•        List of the Britain’s top 10 persistently high risk roads

•        List of the Britain’s 10 most improved roads

•        List of highest risk road in each region and nation