Saving lives on England's roads

28 August 2019

By Harry Garnham, Head of Performance, Highways.

Harry Garnham, Head of Performance, HighwaysRoad safety is crucial and that is why we focus on ensuring that Highways England puts improving safety at the heart of its day-to-day management of England’s roads and in the enhancement projects it undertakes.

We monitor Highways England’s work on the motorways and major A-roads in England. We hold it to account for making those roads safer – and reducing the number of people killed or seriously injured on its roads by 40% by 2020.

This is a challenging target – but one which must be met. Currently the company has achieved a 32% reduction – so there is still some way to go.

Safety can be improved in many different ways – for example better driving, safer vehicles and safer roads – and we expect Highways England to look at the full range of actions it could take to improve safety, and ensure it is getting the biggest safety benefit for its money.

Our primary focus is on seeing the best result – fewer people killed or seriously injured – but while we focus on the outcome, we do look at other indicators.

Over the past four years, we have monitored what Highways England has done to fulfil the actions promised in its safety improvement plan and now we are waiting to see its plan for further improvements.

Star ratings V statistical risk

We have also held Highways England to account for rating the safety of its roads. It has done this – and published a report on it - The strategic road network star rating report.

In 2015, Highways England said it would “ensure that by the end of 2020 more than 90% of travel is on roads with a safety rating or EuroRAP 3* (or equivalent)”, and it now forecasts that 95% of travel on the Strategic Road Network will be on roads rated 3* or above.

It also said "We will ensure that the majority of those roads with 1* and 2* safety rating have improved to 3*".  We reported that it is unlikely to meet this commitment. However, it has demonstrated an approach to prioritising safety work that takes into account both the star rating and the statistical risk of death or serious injury on a road and we agree that this approach leads to a greater reduction in casualties than we would see if it focused on improving star ratings alone.

Nonetheless, as we continue to monitor Highways England’s work, this year we are carrying out an in-depth review of how it is spending its money to improve safety, and as part of this work, we will look again at its approach to star ratings.