One in ten British roads 'unacceptably risky'

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Indy Lifestyle Online

As many as 10% of Britain's motorways and A-roads present an unacceptably high risk to drivers, a major report revealed today.

Half of all crashes occur on just one tenth of Britain's road network, the report from the Road Safety Foundation found.

Most of the higher-risk roads are in north west England, Yorkshire and the Humber and the East Midlands, while Scotland has the highest risk rating of all the regions.

The West Midlands is the safest region, while the most persistently dangerous road is the A537 between Macclesfield in Cheshire and Buxton in Derbyshire.

The report, which covers 28,000 miles of roads, also found that one third of all fatal and serious crashes occur at junctions and that single carriageways offer six times the risk of danger to motorists than motorways and twice that of dual carriageways.

Also drivers were seven times more at risk on major roads than on minor ones.

The report said the A537 which runs through the Peak District has severe bends, steep falls from the carriageway and is edged by dry-stone walls or rock face for almost all its length.

It is popular with tourists, heavy goods vehicles and high-powered leisure motorcyclists. Fatal and serious collisions on this section rose by 127% in three years - from 15 in the period 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.

Three other roads in the Derbyshire area are listed in the persistently higher-risk road top 10 - the A5012 from the A515 near Pikehall to the A6 at Matlock; the A54 from Congleton to Buxton; and the A5004 from the A6 at Whaley Bridge to Buxton.

The only southern road in the "most dangerous" table is the stretch of the A285 in West Sussex from the A27 at Chichester to the A272 at Petworth.

The report also lists the UK's top 10 highest-risk roads when collisions involving motorcyclists are excluded.

Topping this list is the A18 from the A16 near Ludborough to the A46 at Laceby in North East Lincolnshire. Most of these roads are single-carriageway A roads, with nine of the 10 in the North West and Yorkshire and the Humber regions.

The report also revealed the UK's 10 most improved roads, with the list being topped by the A40 between Llandovery and Carmarthen in South Wales, where junctions were upgraded, new road markings introduced and extensive resurfacing carried out.

This included anti-skid treatments, with a result that there has been a 74% reduction in deaths and serious collisions between 2006 and 2008.

Road Safety Foundation director Dr Joanne Hill 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 year's 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."

She went on: "There are practical examples of how 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."

Road Safety Minister Mike Penning said: "Britain's roads are among the safest in the world but this report highlights that we still have more to do to tackle the problems on the riskiest roads.

"However, the ratings also show that by targeting improvements on the highest-risk roads, highways authorities can prevent significant numbers of deaths and injuries.

"This will help the Government and local authorities to continue the vital work of saving lives on the roads while ensuring the long-term sustainability of transport investment in this country."

AA president Edmund King said: "This report shows that road safety should be able to continue to improve during the current period of austerity.

"Dangerous stretches must be targeted - with both engineering and education-backed enforcement. This will be much more effective than any kind of blanket restriction on either urban or rural roads."

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