Deadly toll of road design

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The Independent Online
AT LEAST 300 people are killed each year because of design errors on Britain's roads, the Automobile Association claims today.

The group policy director, John Dawson, says: "Common design mistakes are repeated up and down the country. Many are easily avoidable and [changes could] ... prevent motorists, cyclists and motorcyclists being killed and injured."

Among the most common mistakes listed are:

nFailure to discourage high speeds at roundabouts;

nConfusing arrays of traffic lights at junctions;

nEncouraging motorists to drive at greater speeds on some roads than the roads were designed for;

nPoorly sited crossings for pedestrians;

nLampposts on the wrong side of a crash barrier;

nRoad signs hidden by overhanging branches or uncut grass, and

nBadly designed tactile (bumpy) paving for the visually impaired at crossings.

The AA says 1,200 people are killed every year because of excessive speed, 160 at pedestrian crossings, 70 colliding with lampposts and 50 at roundabouts. A spokesman said the 250 and 300 deaths related to poor design are "a conservative estimate".

Government figures show 3,599 people were killed on the roads in 1997, compared with 5,125 in 1987, and injuries rose to 327,544 from 311,473.

The Highways Agency, responsible for motorways and trunk roads, said Britain's roads were the safest in the EU, with stringent design guidelines. A spokesman for local highway authorities said: "No matter how well you design roads you can't ensure the drivers will drive safely."