Road Safety by A.D. 2000 – Talk by A.S. Whitaker, member, at the Durrington Community Centre, 12th January, 1994.
This talks, as with all talks, are recorded and the tape cassettes are available on loan from the Secretary.
In 1988 the Government endeavoured to reduce road casualties by one third by
the year 2000.
Fig. 1. Percentage variation of Road Deaths from 1950 to 1993.
Historically the worst year for road deaths was in 1941 when the blackout led to 9,169 deaths. Whilst there has been an increase in traffic from some 3 million vehicles in 1938 to over 30 million in 1992, the road casualties have been reducing overall. Considerable efforts have been made to keep ahead, but with cost of accidents of about £3 billion each year, there is an urgent need to improve the situation.
There have been some recent improvements. There was a reduction of 6% in 1992 from 1991 but this was accompanied by a drop in traffic volume of 2% due to recession. Serious injuries also fell but slight injuries rose by 15%. Child pedestrian deaths fell by 22%. Motor cyclist deaths fell by 16%. The challenge facing Highway Engineers is to maintain and improve on this trend by reducing congestion and improving standards of safety.
Every Local Authority has a Traffic Section and a Road Safety Unit who work with the police and Education Authorities.
The Traffic Section analyse all accidents involving injury or death. Arising from this analysis, they promote a programme of small improvements such as at junctions, minor road improvements, improved road lighting, etc. When complete, they monitor the effectiveness of the measures undertaken. The Section also undertake regular traffic and pedestrian movement counts.
The Road Safety Unit organises Road Safety training and cyclist education.
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The main underlying cause for 90% of road accidents is driver error. Most accidents do not occur on Motorways, but on urban roads within 2 or 3 miles of the motorists home. These roads carry only 40% of the traffic and yet account for 75% of fatal accidents.
The speaker then illustrated how roads have been improved. Cats’ eyes and white lining was one of the greatest benefits. Pre-war research produced better design standards allied to vehicle speed, radii, super elevation and vertical alignment. Curves were designed with the proper transitions. Neglect during the war led to poor road surfaces. The use of improved HR asphalt surfaces and better surface dressing eventually led to a better road. Winter brought its usual problems – snow and ice, especially black ice. Initially sand was used but salt is now used almost universally.
The speaker then gave details of a number of road improvement schemes in which he had been involved, including the problems arising from subsidence in the West Riding of Yorkshire, Lancashire, Warwickshire and Cheshire.
Some of the factors that contribute to the safety of roads are:-
1. DRAINAGE. With very heavy rainfalls there is the risk of aquaplaning. A strict specification exists for surface treatment, be it HRA, tar or bitumen macadam, or surface dressing to achieve texture depth and the required PS aggregates. This includes Texture, Durability and Skidding Resistance. The main drainage problem occurs on slack gradients on snaking roads where the transition curves run out and there is an area of dead flat.
2. CONCRETE ROADS must have a surface rugosity to obviate skidding and aquaplaning. This is achieved by either a stiff brush grain or mechanically tamping the surface before the concrete hardens. Hardened concrete can be incised with diamond edged wheels. Incision can cause road noise which can be overcome by banking the road sides and planting conifers. New approaches are to use Whisper concrete, a concrete base with final thin surface of higher PSV aggregates or the use of porous asphalt. Where a special finish is required Shell and BP have introduced a fine resin bound surface dressing for use on roundabout entrances etc.
3. The close proximity of trees leading to accidents in gales.
The speaker then gave details of road improvements in the South East that have been initiated from accident investigation :-
A24 North of Findon roundabout to Washington roundabout; the removal of reserve crossings.
The removal of the central reservation on the A259 near the Titchener roundabout. Arundel Road near the Body Shop and Station Road, Rustington; islands have been installed to reduce speed and to prevent unsafe overtaking.
South of Leatherhead on the A24 the southbound carriageway has had the inner lane blanked out and rumble strips added to cut out fatalities that occurred from overtaking on a winding tree lined road.
All motorways and TR duals have count-down markers to slip roads and roundabouts to guide motorists.
TRAFFIC CALMING is now being introduced to cut down accidents in towns by reducing the speed of traffic and to improve the environment. There are three design principles involved: reduce traffic speeds, re-allocate carriageway space to restrict traffic activities and to redesign and enhance the street environment. In living areas, speeds are limited to below 20mph with reduced optical width, coloured road surfaces, refuge islands, planting, well designed street furniture and attractive lighting etc. In shopping areas and near schools speeds are restrained to 20 – 30 mph by vertical and lateral shifts in carriageway construction, roundabouts, small corner radii and priority management. The most contentious are the introduction of ramps and chicanes. Ramps have been installed at Goring with mixed reactions. Problems are grounding, increased wear on vehicles and highway, and strong opposition from the bus operators and the Fire and Ambulance Services. The trend is to use horizontal displacement for traffic calming measures.
TRAFFIC EDUCATION. Teachers are to receive traffic education by the LA Road Safety Unit and the subject is proposed for inclusion in the National Curriculum. Schools are encouraged to enter into partnership with the Road Safety Officer. A range of new initiatives with schools are being introduced :- (1) Cycle proficiency training. (2) Workshops in Traffic Education Centres. (3) The “Concept Keyboard” computer project. (4) Better driving courses for older children.
What of the future? Some suggestions have been made for further issues to be considered for Government Legislation. These include targeting the use of the random breathalyser test at places where drink is imbibed, permanently retaining the extra hour of daylight to reduce twilight or night accidents and fitting speed limiters to all vehicles.