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New figures from the Department for Transport (DfT) show that there has been an increase in overall road casualties in Britain for the first time in 18 years. It must be more than a coincidence that this increase comes at a time when many local authorities are failing to invest in a road surface that is widely recognised as playing an integral role in road safety and accident reduction.

According to the latest figures there were 1,775 reported road deaths in 2014, an increase of 4% compared with 2013. The number of those killed or seriously injured in Britain rose by 5% to 24,582. There were a total of 194,477 casualties of all severities which is an increased of 6%, the first increase in overall casualties since 1997.

“Whilst not wanting to speculate on the relationship between road surface condition and the number of road accidents, there must be some correlation between the rising number of accidents and the decrease use of high friction surfacing,” said Howard Robinson, Chief Executive of the Road Surface Treatments Association (RSTA). “Despite being proven to improve skid resistance and reduce braking distances there has been a significant reduction in the installation of high friction surfacing. This has a detrimental impact on road safety and, as the average associated accident and investigation costs of a non-motorway road fatality is £1.4 million, has no economic basis.”

Typical locations for high friction surfacing include road junctions, approaches to traffic lights, pedestrian crossings and roundabouts as well as road stretches that have high accident levels. With a skid accident reduction of often 50% being reported its success speaks for itself. Treatment with high friction surfacing makes potentially high risk road locations far safer for both drivers and pedestrians and the financial savings of achieving this are considerable.

Despite the benefits over the last few years there has been a serious decline in the use of high friction surfacing due in large part to local authority perceived cost concerns. However, since the 1980’s this cost has been able to be balanced against a broader savings strategy with allocated accident investigation and prevention budgets proving the investment savings from high friction surfacing against the cost of accidents and casualties.

A further issue was the lack of best practice guidance. RSTA, with the support of ADEPT, has developed key industry guidance. The ‘Service Life of Surface Treatments’ establishes the service life of a range of road surface treatments including high friction surfacing and by doing so provides a nationally agreed baseline for durability. Having such an agreed baseline is invaluable for lifecycle planning and asset management. The service life is dependent upon a number of important factors including site location and traffic volumes, surface preparation, method of working and workforce competence based on training and qualifications.

In addition there is Code of Practice that provides best practice guidance for ensuring that the baseline service life is achieved. Aimed at both client and contractor, the Code examines the application of both hot and cold high friction surfacing systems and provides practical guidance and technical details for their specification and installation. All issues concerning planning, health and safety and work execution are examined and full reference is made to relevant regulations, standards and training. In all, the Code provides definitive guidance on the right way to specify and apply high friction surfacing. Furthermore, RSTA offers a full training programme for operatives.

“High friction surfacing offers a wide range of benefits not least of which is saving lives and money. Concerns over cost and durability have been addressed and best practice guidance and training programmes for consistent and high quality application are readily available,” said Robinson. “The increase in road fatalities and accidents underline the need for a safe, well maintained road surface.”