Is there a link between increased road casualties and poor road condition?

Whilst there are no official studies into the correlation between poor road surface condition and road casualty figures, it should come as no surprise that the sharp increase in road accidents comes at a time of growing concern over the £12 billion back log in road repairs.

Figures released by the Department for Transport (DfT) show a significant increase of 17% of people killed or seriously injured (KSI) on our roads in the first quarter of 2014 compared to 2013. Worryingly, DfT figures also show that traffic volume has only risen by 4.1% to 5.1% over the same period leading to the conclusion that traffic casualties are rising much faster than traffic volume.

In total, casualty figures, including slight injuries, rose to 45,960 – a rise of 15% from 39,751.

“Although there are no actual figures to support the correlation, it would be surprising if there was no link between the deteriorating condition of road surfaces and the increase in road casualties. Potholes and reduced skidding performance have a direct impact on the safety of road surfaces,” said Howard Robinson, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA).

In addition to concern over the negative impact of poor road condition road safety, Robinson also points to the decrease in the use of high friction surfacing at accident hotspots such as road junctions, roundabouts and zebra crossings.

High friction surfacing (HFS) significantly improves the skid resistance of roads and its use can result in a 50% reduction in accidents. However, out-dated concerns over cost and durability have seen a marked decline in the use of HFS. This is now being addressed with the initial cost of HFS being balanced against the significant savings resulting from reduced accidents – it is estimated that the associated accident and investigation costs of a non-motorway fatal accident can be up to £1.4 million – and the availability of best practice installation guidance and practical operative training.

“A well-maintained road surface is a safe road surface. The significant increase in road casualties points to the need for correct investment in long-term maintenance of our road network”, said Robinson.