Comment: Let's turn the right corner on road safety


The recent report from the Road Safety Foundation ties in with the third consecutive annual rise in KSI figures for the UK, which can no longer be viewed as a statistical anomaly.

The number of people killed on our roads has increased each year for the last three. In 2014 it was attributed to a statistical anomaly or perhaps abnormal weather. With two further years of increases, clearly we have turned the wrong corner.

Fatal accidents on UK roads peaked in 1966 at 7,985. Safety programmes put in place since reduced the figures steadily until 2013, when it was 1,713 deaths – still too many. This is despite a huge increase in population and traffic growth over the same period. There are of course many contributing factors to that, including driver behaviour and of course highway engineering measures.

Mike Harper

In 1968 High Friction Surfacing  (HFS), known as “anti skid”, was rolled out for the first time in London. It was a road treatment with one specific aim – to reduce road casualties. The effect was immediate, with a 50% reduction in London in year 1, leading to a 10-year programme, treating high risk areas such as junctions, pedestrian crossings, roundabouts and bends. The programme recovered its costs by eight times in reduced accident costs, not to mention the massive improvement to accident outcomes for road users.

But over the last five or six years in the UK, the use of HFS has been in decline – reducing from approximately three million square metres per year five or six years ago to around one million today. Over that same period, the long trend of casualty reduction began to increase.

So have we forgotten the fundamentals of road safety? In terms of the road surface, good quality high friction surfacing, along with good quality road markings, are the most cost effective measures an authority can take for accident reduction.

Having spoken to many local authorities and Highways England, there is a perception that it doesn’t last very long and is therefore poor value for money.

The latest figure I can find for the estimate of the total cost of a fatal road accident taking all factors into account is £1.9m (source Kent CC, 2015) per fatality. So even if we ignore the devastating human cost of a fatal road accident, 1,800 road deaths in 2016 cost UK Plc £3.42bn approximately. So is it really the case that we can’t afford to use effective road safety measures to save lives?

Although the original HFS products then might have given in excess of 10 years life, today’s traffic conditions will exert more wear on an HFS system. Therefore, modern HFS systems provide the longest life and therefore the lowest whole life cost. For those local authorities who are now managing their assets over the long term, a move away from lowest first cost to invest in a high quality system will not only save lives, but reduce whole life cost – and reduce the disruption of maintenance interventions.

Let’s turn this deteriorating situation around – it can be done within existing budgets.

Mike Harper is director of highways at Stirling Lloyd as well as a director of the Road Surface Treatments Association and former chairman of the RSTA High Friction Surfacing Committee.

This is the first of a series of articles to mark Road Safety Week.


Also see

Register now for full access

Register just once to get unrestricted, real-time coverage of the issues and challenges facing UK transport and highways engineers.

Full website content includes the latest news, exclusive commentary from leading industry figures and detailed topical analysis of the highways, transportation, environment and place-shaping sectors. Use the link below to register your details for full, free access.

Already a registered? Login

comments powered by Disqus
highways jobs

Senior Team Leader

Redbridge London Borough Council
£35,992 to £38,994 per annum inclusive
Looking for individuals with initiative, evidence of experience in managing a street cleansing service and motivating... Redbridge, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Redbridge London Borough Council

Information Management Officer x 2 Jobs

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£24,799 - £26,317
Looking for better and smarter ways to operate and you will play a key role working across a broad range of service... Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Graduate Engineer

Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council
£24,313 - £28,785 per annum
This is an exciting new opportunity in the Highway Services team to play a pivotal role in creating a safe and... Sandwell, West Midlands
Recuriter: Sandwell Metropolitan Borough Council

Chief Fire Officer

West Sussex County Council
Competitive Salary plus Financial Support for Recruitment and Retention
We are looking for an exceptional individual who can lead our Fire & Rescue Service Chichester, West Sussex
Recuriter: West Sussex County Council

School Crossing Patrol

Brent Council
£21,591 - £22,377 p.a. inc. pro rata.
Looking for someone that is friendly, has great communication skills and enjoys working with children. Wembley, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Brent Council

Engineer (Highway Design)

Darlington Borough Council
£31,371 - £33,799
Looking to employ an experienced person within the Highway Design team to meet the challenge of enabling development... Darlington, Durham
Recuriter: Darlington Borough Council

Project Manager – Major Maintenance and Infrastructure Projects 

Liverpool City Council
£42,683 - £47,491 
The successful candidate will ensure that effective procurement and delivery of highways maintenance and improvement. Liverpool, Merseyside
Recuriter: Liverpool City Council

Green Space Development Manager

Camden London Borough Council
£45,504 - £52,786
The successful candidate will join a dynamic, multi-disciplinary team and contribute to our commitment to deliver for... Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Green Space Project Officer

Camden London Borough Council
£40,829 - £47,360
The successful candidate will join a dynamic, multi-disciplinary team and contribute to our commitment to deliver for the people of Camden, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Camden London Borough Council

Senior Principal Planning Officer - Fixed Term

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£39.774 - £42.684
Looking for key members of the team that will be instrumental in transforming the Borough and opportunities available for residents.  Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Career Grade Planner

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£27228 - £36711
In this role you will deal primarily with small-scale planning applications covering a wide range of planning issues. Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Career Grade Planning Officer

Royal Borough of Greenwich
£27.228 - £36.711
We offer a great opportunity to develop your career with a positive approach to development and a desire to put... Greenwich, London (Greater)
Recuriter: Royal Borough of Greenwich

Director of Place and Communities

Ashfield District Council
As the Director for Place and Communities you will provide strategic and operational leadership across a range of key services including Waste... Nottinghamshire
Recuriter: Ashfield District Council

Highways Operative - 3 Jobs

Kirklees Metropolitan Council
£18,426 - £21,166 (plus 20% enhancement if working in the night team)
You will be responsible for providing effective maintenance and development of the Kirklees road network carrying out a range of highway works. Kirklees, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Kirklees Metropolitan Council

Rights of Way Officer

Cambridgeshire County Council
£26,470 - £28,221
The purpose of the role is to implement and advise on the maintenance, protection, improvement and promotion of access... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Road Safety and Sustainable Transport Assistant

Telford & Wrekin Council
£11.41 - £12.35 per hour
Are you passionate about Road Safety, and want to help educate road users and develop their skills? Wrekin, Telford
Recuriter: Telford & Wrekin Council


Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
As an Engineer, you will be required to lead the delivery of a wide range of highway improvements and maintenance projects to... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council

Inspector / Senior Inspector

City of Bradford MDC
£21,166 - £31,371 pa
This is an opportunity to join the Highway Maintenance team who have responsibility for maintenance of around 2,000km of adopted road network. Bradford, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: City of Bradford MDC

Head of Highways Infrastructure

Leeds City Council
£72,397 - £79,637
Seeking an exceptional candidate for the position of Head of Highways Infrastructure to lead on the authority’s duty to... Leeds, West Yorkshire
Recuriter: Leeds City Council

Definitive Map Manager

Cambridgeshire County Council
£32,825 - £35,401
This role is based within the Highways Service at Cambridgeshire County Council and provides an unusual and... Cambridgeshire
Recuriter: Cambridgeshire County Council