Analysis: Welcome move must be only one part of a safety strategy
WE’RE used to seeing Formula 1 drivers walking away, improbably, from long, slow, high-speed crashes.
This year’s tracking results from the Road Safety Foundation shows your risk of being killed on “A” roads is now six times greater than on motorways. It is the wrong speed on the wrong road that kills.
Scotland’s road deaths have fallen by 40 per cent over the past decade. The majority of that fall came from new, safer vehicles fitted with airbags and crumple zones.
The human body cannot survive uncushioned impacts of more than 25mph, and newer vehicles are built to cushion impacts in crashes up to 40mph.
People die on rural A roads in three main ways – running off the road into solid objects or down embankments; in brutal side impacts at junctions; and in head-on crashes.
On motorways, modern vehicles can collide with a safety fence, leaving occupants no more than very shocked. On A roads, they are exposed to much higher risks. When crashes start at 60mph, the chances of surviving trees or poles too close to the roadside are poor. The faster and busier a road, the higher the chances of a fatal head-on crash.
One reason Sweden has the world’s best safety record is it has fundamentally revisited the safety of its single carriageways. It has reduced speed limits where protection is poor and raised speed limits where protection is good. Crucially, it is investing in raising protection standards on thousands of miles of busier single carriageway.
The decision to reduce speed limits on busy single-carriageway trunk roads where the safety engineering is not good enough is welcome, providing it is one part of the overall strategy.
The commitments to capital spending on roads must mean equally systematic assessment across the whole trunk road network to save the most lives for the money available and get the highest returns. Other governments have committed to upgrading national networks to three-star minimum standard by 2020. Scots, too, should not be driving five-star cars on two-star roads and can have world-class infrastructure safety.
• Dr Joanne Marden is director of the Road Safety Foundation.
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Saturday 18 May 2013
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