If you were given the option of an ultra-dangerous road to get home tonight, or a really safe one, which would you choose?
Unless you’re an adrenalin junkie, the chances are you’d take the safe option; after all, you’re probably keen to see your next birthday. The thing is, how do you know whether your journey home tonight is likely to be event-free or likely to end in disaster?
Of the 833 roads assessed in the UK, 23 were so bad they achieved no stars in the ratings
You’ve probably never given it much thought before, but if the markings on a road have virtually disappeared, or there’s a junction hidden round the bend on a fast road, there’s a pretty good chance of a smash at some point.
The thing is, your lack of experience behind the wheel means it’s you who is more likely to be in that smash than someone who already knows just how poorly engineered many of our roads are.
After months of research, EuroRAP (the European Road Assessment Programme) discovered that the most dangerous road in the UK is Scotland’s A889, which has an accident rate almost double that of the next most dangerous road, the A537 from Macclesfield in Cheshire to Buxton in Derbyshire.
If you’re based in Southern England, don’t think all the danger is up north though; the third most dangerous road is a short section of the A12 between Romford in Essex and the M25.
Of the 833 roads assessed in the UK, 23 were so bad they achieved no stars in the ratings. Another 90 received just one star, while another 213 were awarded a mere two stars. With 415 getting three stars, the worrying thing is that of all the roads surveyed, just 92 UK roads were given the maximum four-star score.
If that’s just a load of meaningless figures, put it this way: you’re ten times more likely to have a smash on a zero-star road than one with four stars. Do you still think all roads are the same?The research didn’t just look at how many crashes occur on any given stretch of road; they also take into account how much traffic uses those roads.
Hopefully, this will allow designers to re-engineer roads to reduce the number of crashes, and especially the four most likely to end in death or serious injury. These are head-on crashes, accidents at junctions, collisions with vulnerable road users (pedestrians and cyclists), and vehicles hitting objects at the side of the road.
Each year in the UK, 500 people die from crashing into trees, lampposts, signs and other roadside hazards; by fencing these off or removing them, this number could be dramatically cut.
Indeed, by sticking to a set of road engineering guidelines, it’s hoped to slash in half the number of people killed on Europe’s roads each year.
John Dawson is chairman of EuroRAP; he comments: "We have to make roads more forgiving – human error shouldn't carry a death sentence. People should not be dying on major routes because basic protection is absent from entirely predictable collisions, such as with unfenced roadside objects.
“The EuroNCAP car crash test programme has done wonders for car occupant safety in a few short years, but we have some major roads around Europe which fall so far short of known safe design that they give little margin for survival in the event of a simple driver error, whatever car you're in.
“We cannot demand five-star cars from manufacturers and then settle for one-star roads. The cars we drive, the way we drive and the roads we drive them on are all part of a single safety system”.
The UK’s most dangerous roads…
- A889: A86 - A9 (near Dalwhinnie)
- A537: Macclesfield - Buxton
- A12: Romford - M25
- A4137: A49 - A40 (west of Ross-on-Wye)
- A628: A616 - Penistone
- A1001: Hatfield
- A534: Welsh boundary - Nantwich
- A533: Runcorn - A56
- A682: M65 Junction 13 - A65 Long Preston
- A13 (now A1306): Aveley A1306 - M25
The hidden dangers
It doesn’t take much to turn a dangerous road into one that’s safe; you just need:
- Clear markings
- Decent lighting
- Anti-skid surfaces
- Legible signs
- Clear traffic lights
- Pedestrian crossings
- Good sight lines