UK government has 74 ideas to cut road deaths

Government has 74 ideas to cut road deaths

“We can no longer keep doing the same things in the same way if we want to improve” road safety is the message from the government as it launches its action plan to cut deaths.

The Road Safety Statement outlines the actions over the next two years, with 74 ideas designed to improve road safety.

The UK is ranked third in Europe and second in the EU in terms of safety, when ranked by the number of road deaths per million inhabitants.

Only Norway (20 road deaths per million) and Sweden (25 road deaths per million) boast a superior road safety record.

There were 1,793 reported fatalities in 2017 – 39 percent fewer compared with 2007. But the government thinks we can do even better. 

‘We are not complacent’

Crash as a result of drug-driving

“The UK has some of the safest roads in the world,” said transport secretary Chris Grayling, “but we are not complacent and continue to look at how we can make them safer.

“Today’s action plan is a key milestone in our road safety work and sets out the important steps we are taking to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured on our roads.”

Over the past 12 months, the Department of Transport (DfT) has announced a series of road safety measures, including £100 million Safer Roads Funds, designed to improve safety on the 50 most dangerous roads in England. The DfT has also given nearly £500,000 to the RAC Foundation to learn more about collision investigations.

The two-year action plan is largely focused on four user groups: young road users, rural road users, motorcyclists and older vulnerable road users. In the background is a three-pillar approach to road safety, encompassing safer vehicles, safer speed and a safer infrastructure.

Always wear your seatbelt

Everything from traffic signs, the fitment of child seats, drink-driving, the use of mobile phones at while driving and not wearing a seatbelt are included in the 69-page document published by the DfT.

The government is considering increasing the penalties for drivers who do not belt up in the car, with 27 percent of car deaths involving people who were not wearing a seatbelt.

Road Safety Minister Michael Ellis said: “Far too many people are not wearing a seatbelt while traveling in a car, needlessly putting their lives at risk.

“Increasing penalties for people who disregard the simplest of way of protecting themselves is just one of a long list of actions this government is taking to help keep people safe on our roads.”

The Road Safety Statement: summary

Lorry close to cyclist

The 74 proposals outlined in the Road Safety Statement 2019: A Lifetime of Road Safety publication can be split into the following categories:

  • Young road users: first steps to greater safety
  • Young adults: dealing with growing independence
  • Adults: staying within the law
  • Third-age adults: safety as you get older
  • Fleets and people who drive for work
  • Safer heavy goods vehicles (HGVs)
  • Safer motorcycles
  • Emissions and air quality
  • Automated vehicles
  • Rural roads
  • The strategic road network
  • Urban areas and the environment
  • Road collisions
  • Building foundations for the future

RAC welcomes the proposals

Rural road

In response to the publication, RAC head of roads policy Nicholas Lyes said: “The Government is rightly recognising there are different challenges drivers contend with throughout their driving careers, so we broadly welcome many of these proposals.

“Of course it is right to crack down on those that do not wear a seatbelt and we welcome tougher penalties which will encourage some to belt up behind the wheel. But this alone won’t be enough to make the roads safer.

“A number of those who choose not to buckle up are also likely to be those that flout other road traffic laws. This reinforces the importance of enforcement and we fear some drivers will persist without the genuine threat of being caught and prosecuted for not wearing a seatbelt.

“The Government is also right to focus on rural roads given that these types of roads are often where many serious collisions take place. Incorporating plans for learner drivers to get more practice on these road types as well as night time driving will be beneficial to improving overall driving standards.”

Highways England’s new super-truck promises to cut congestion

Highways England ECRU super-truck

Its official name is Enhanced Customer Response Unit (ECRU), but if it delivers on its promise to ‘dramatically reduce delays for drivers’, it’ll develop a reputation as a ‘super-truck’.

The ECRU – which is the first of its kind in the UK – is being trialled in the West Midlands from July, with the vehicle manned by both Highways England traffic officers and incident support staff from contractor Kier.

It combines the expertise, knowledge and equipment of both teams who deal with post-incident clean-ups and repairs.

Motorists in the West Midlands are unlikely to miss the ECRU super-truck – it looks like a full-size Lego Technic creation. The warning beacons and electronic message signs are the most visible features.

But the ECRU can also carry bigger signs and more cones. Super-truck is super-size.

Other features of note include impact-absorbing cushions on the back to protect road workers, an on-board sweeper and a pressure washer. 

‘Huge strides’

Highways England ECRU in the West Midlands

Highways England corporate group leader Martin Bolt said: “Highways England continually strives to develop new ways and innovations that will help keep our road network clear and traffic moving.

“By combining services in one vehicle we can deal with incidents and issues more quickly.

“Working with our partners Kier we have been able to take huge strides in ensuring smoother, safer journeys for all road users.”

Scott Cooper, managing director strategic highways at Kier, added: “Having one innovation performing a range of tasks will allow us to respond to incidents quicker, inevitably saving time for our customers.

“Jointly occupying the vehicle demonstrates our continued commitment to working collaboratively to improve efficiencies and achieve the best results for both road users and workers.”

If the West Midlands trial is successful, you can expect to see the ECRU multi-tasking super-truck appearing on a main road near you in the future. 

Bug hotels part of plan to protect wildlife on the A38 in Devon

The A38 in Devon

Highways England is trialling a cutting edge biotechnology system on the A38 in Devon as part of a £30 million Biodiversity Plan.

A bio-engineered filtration pond will act like a reed bed, using a soil specifically designed to trap dissolved pollutants in the water run-off.

Such water can contain harmful pollutants from the road and adjacent farmland, impacting the water quality and harming wildlife.

If successful, the system could be rolled out across the country, says Highways England.

The scheme started yesterday (10 June) and is expected to continue for 14 weeks, although Highways England is hoping to “limit the impact on traffic”.

A tunnel will be bored under the A38 to modify the existing drainage system and divert the run-off water into the new treatment centre. Two overnight closures are planned for the A38 in August, along with temporary traffic lights on the B3380 between the Dean Burn overbridge and the westbound sliproad during June and August.

The Biodiversity Plan says that verges and associated land can be managed to provide areas of habitat, relatively free from human access.

To this end, bug hotels, butterfly scrapes and bee banks are also being installed as part of the works on the A38.

Tarmacadam and the ants

The A30 in Cornwall

Over the last 12 months, Highways England has worked on grassland and wildflower creation projects in Devon and Cornwall, along with a scheme to protect the habitat of the narrow-headed ant, England’s rarest ant, on the A38.

Project manager Michelle Reed said: “We are delighted to be able to work on such a worthwhile pilot environmental scheme, especially as it is the first time this system has been used on the strategic road network in England.

“The filtration system provides a physical barrier to polluted water, then chemical and biological mechanisms work in combination to break down even more pollutants. It also has the advantage of taking up far less space than other treatment systems, which makes it very cost effective.

“When completed, this work should significantly improve the quality of water running into Dean Burn and help to support the local environment and its wildlife.”

These are the times to avoid the roads this weekend

bank holiday weekend traffic

Around 22 million leisure trips are planned for this Bank Holiday weekend – the highest in six years years, according to the RAC.

That’s eight million MORE than last year, as motorists take to the road to make the most of the last holiday weekend before the end of August. Top tip: you might want to stay at home to paint the downstairs cloakroom, or something.

Fortunately, the RAC has also revealed the busiest periods over the weekend, so with some canny forward planning, you can avoid the jams. The roads are likely to be particularly busy at the following times:

  • Friday 24 May (5.6 million leisure trips): busiest between 4pm and 7pm
  • Saturday 25 May (6.6 million leisure trips): busiest between 10am and 3pm
  • Sunday 26 May (5 million leisure trips): busiest between 10am and 3pm
  • Monday 27 May (5.3 million leisure trips): busiest between 12pm and 4pm

For its part, Highways England is removing 97 percent of roadworks on motorways and A-roads over the weekend, so you have a fighting chance of reaching your in-laws in time for tea. This may or may not be a good thing.

RAC patrol of the year Ben Aldous said: “Our research suggests a lot of drivers are planning on taking to the road over this weekend, with routes leading to the coasts, national parks and highlands like the Lake District likely to see significant volumes of traffic – and some extensive jams.”

The Bank Holiday weekend weather forecast

M6 Cumbria favourite driving route

Met Office deputy chief meteorologist, Chris Bulmer said: “This upcoming Bank Holiday weekend will start off fine and warm with sunny spells in the south, but for northern parts of the UK it’ll be cooler, cloudier and breezy with some rain at times. 

“At the moment Saturday looks to be one of the better days of the weekend with the promise of sunshine for most, whereas Sunday will be cloudier with outbreaks of rain moving in from the west.

“By Monday this rain and cloud should clear with a return to sunny spells and the odd shower in places, feeling cooler across the country in the fresh westerly breeze.”

The UK’s favourite driving routes revealed

M6 Cumbria favourite driving route

The M6 in Cumbria has been named as one of England’s favourite driving routes in an online poll created by Highways England.

A not entirely surprising choice given the rugged scenery and rolling hills surrounding the motorway, but the other top choices were less predictable.

The M5 in the South West might be associated with holidays in Devon and Cornwall, but as drivers are likely to discover over the forthcoming Bank Holiday weekend, congestion can often delay the family getaway.

Other favourite driving routes included the A1 in Northumberland and the M1 near Lutterworth.

Highways England has published the results ahead of the Bank Holiday when its teams will be removing more than 700 miles of roadworks.

As a result, around 97 percent of England’s motorways and major A-roads will be blissfully free of roadworks in time for the last Bank Holiday weekend before summer.

Stay on these roads

traffic delays on the M5 near Bristol

Highways England’s customer service director Melanie Clarke said: “Many people have a favourite road they love driving on – and we want everyone to reach their destinations safely.

“We’re doing everything we can to make journeys as smooth as possible for those travelling and that’s why we’re keeping around 97 percent of the road network we manage, free from roadworks.

“Safety is our top priority and we know from experience that almost half of breakdowns can easily be avoided if motorists carry out simple vehicle checks before setting off over this period.”

These simple checks include:

  • Ensuring you have enough fuel to reach your destination
  • Checking the pressures and condition of your tyres
  • Checking the engine oil before embarking on a long journey
  • Topping up your screenwash
  • Checking the headlights, indicators, reversing lights and brake lights

The motorway and major A-road network will be free of roadworks from 6am Friday 24 May until 12.01am on Tuesday 28 May.

M25 motorway

Traffic alert: Britain’s five busiest road sections revealed

M25 motorway

The government has revealed the five busiest road sections in Great Britain, and it won’t surprise you to discover that four of them are on the M25.

Predictably, the stretch linking junction 14 at Heathrow Airport with the M4 at junction 15 is the most congested, with 219,000 vehicles using the section EVERY DAY in 2018.

Junction 13 at Staines to junction 14 is the next busiest road with 206,000 vehicles, with junction 15 to junction 16 for the M40 motorway next up with 201,000 vehicles.

The section linking junctions 12 and 13 completes the misery for motorists forced to use the M25 on a daily basis, with 193,000 vehicles hitting the short section every day.

Only the M1 between junction 9 for Rebourn and junction 8 for Hemel Hempstead manages to muscle in on the M25’s dominance, with 184,000 vehicles using the stretch of motorway in Hertfordshire.

Commuters on the M25

The figures were taken by an analysis of the Strategic Road Network (SRN), which is made up of motorways and major trunk roads managed by Highways England, or equivalent truck road networks in the devolved administrations.

Amazingly, although the SRN makes up just 2.4 percent of England’s road network, it carried 34 percent of all motorised traffic in England.

Even more amazing – if you enjoy road statistics – is the fact that, at a national level, 85 percent of Britain’s traffic was on England’s roads in 2018. If you need a break, head to Scotland or Wales…

Of the five local authorities in England with the highest levels of traffic, three are in the South East (Hampshire, Kent and Surrey), and the other two are in the East of England region (Essex and Hertfordshire).

Surprise: traffic is DOWN in London

London Congestion Charge

But motor vehicle traffic is up across almost the entire country, with the South West showing the biggest increase since 1993 (39 percent), followed by Scotland and East of England (both up 37 percent).

Only Greater London bucked the trend, with traffic down 4 percent, presumably a symptom of anti-car legislation, expensive parking and the use of public transport.

If you’ve had enough of traffic congestion, we can recommend some terrific roads in Scotland and Wales. Alternatively, check out our list of the quietest A-roads in the country.

Rare Roman coin is the latest ‘remarkable discovery’ on new road

Roman coin found under A14

A rare Roman coin can be added to the list of amazing artefacts found by the archaeologists working alongside the A14 upgrade in Cambridgeshire.

It follows the discovery of what is believed to be evidence of the first beer brewed in the UK, along with the remains of a woolly mammoth and woolly rhino, both probably at least 100,000 years old.

Other discoveries found by the team – led by the aptly-named Dr Steve Sherlock – include prehistoric henges, Iron Age settlements, Roman pottery kilns, three Anglo-Saxon villages, and a deserted medieval village. The project also unearthed a coin dating back to 57 BC, meaning it was likely minted to help fund the resistance to Julius Caesar.

Get Tony Robinson on the blower: this is enough to fill an entire series of Time Team.

woolly rhino and woolly mammoth

A ‘remarkable discovery’

The coin is described by Highways England as a “remarkable discovery” and depicts the Roman emperor Ulpius Cornelius Laelianus wearing a radiate crown. It’s only the second of its kind to be discovered on an archeological dig in England.

It was found in a ditch of a small Roman farmstead unearthed on the project. The head on the coin has been identified by a leading expert.

We’ve done a little, um… digging of our own, and have discovered that Laelianus was born in 269 AD and that “history has little real knowledge about the gallic emperor”.

A number of coins were issued in his name, but his reign was thought to have lasted for just a couple of months before he was executed by his own soldiers.

A ‘rich history’

Dr Sherlock said: “Discoveries of this kind are incredibly rare. This is one of many coins that we’ve found on this exciting project, but to find one, where there are only two known from excavations in this country that portray this particular emperor, really is quite significant.

“I look forward to seeing how the analysis of this find along with numerous other Roman remains that we have found on this project help us better understand our past.”

Julian Bowsher with Roman coin

Julian Bowsher (pictured), numismatist at MOLA Headland Infrastructure, added: “Roman emperors were very keen to mint coins. Laelianus reigned for just two months, which is barely enough time to do so. However, coins were struck in Mainz, Germania.

”The fact that one of these coins ever reached the shores of Britain demonstrates remarkable efficiency, and there’s every chance that Laelianus had been killed by the time this coin arrived in Cambridgeshire.”

Work on the £1.5bn A14 improvement scheme started in November 2016 and includes a new bypass to the south of Huntingdon. The new road is expected to open to traffic by the end of 2020.

Beer found below the A14 in Cambridgeshire

beer found below A14

Experts working on the upgrade of the A14 in Cambridgeshire have uncovered what is believed to be evidence of the first beer brewed in the UK.

Signs of the Iron Age brew, dating back more than 2,000 years, were uncovered in tiny fragments of charred residues from the beer making process from earth excavated as part of the £1.5bn A14 Cambridge to Huntingdon improvement scheme.

The beer follows woolly mammoths, abandoned villages and burials in a series of fascinating discoveries made during the four-year scheme. 

Dr Steve Sherlock, Highways England archaeology lead for the A14, said: “The work we are doing on the A14 continues to unearth incredible discoveries that are helping to shape our understanding of how life in Cambridgeshire, and beyond, has developed through history.

“It’s a well-known fact that ancient populations used the beer making process to purify water and create a safe source of hydration, but this is potentially the earliest physical evidence of that process taking place in the UK.”

A team of 250 archaeologists have been working on the project, investigating sites across 360 hectares. This latest discovery also revealed that the locals, dating back as far as 400 BC, also had a taste for porridge and bread.

‘Needle in a haystack’

Sample from the A14

Archaeobotanist Lara Gonzalez, who discovered the beer, said: “I knew when I looked at these tiny fragments under the microscope that I had something special. The microstructure of these remains had clearly changed through the fermentation process and air bubbles typical of those formed in the boiling and mashing process of brewing.

“It’s like looking for a needle in a haystack but as an archaeobotanist, it’s incredibly exciting to identify remains of this significance and to play a part in uncovering the fascinating history of the Cambridgeshire landscape.

“The porous structures of these fragments are quite similar to bread, but through microscopic study, it’s possible to see that this residue is from the beer-making process as it shows evidence of fermentation and contains larger pieces of cracked grains and bran but no fine flour.”

Work on the £1.5bn A14 improvement scheme started in November 2016 and includes a new bypass to the south of Huntingdon. The new road is expected to open to the traffic by the end of 2020.

Road re-surfacing

England’s local roads resurfaced once every 92 years

Road re-surfacing

The Transport Committee has launched an inquiry into the state of England’s roads after it was revealed that the frequency of re-surfacing has dropped from once every 55 years to once every 92 years.

That’s according to the Asphalt Industry Alliance (AIA) Annual Local Authority Road Maintenance survey, which found that for unclassified roads, the leap is even more severe, with minor roads resurfaced every 132 years.

There’s a marked improvement in London, where roads are re-surfaced every 31 years, although this drops to 18 years on principal roads.

But the Transport Committee has had enough, citing road condition and maintenance as a “matter of public concern”, adding a tabloid-friendly “plague of potholes” to the mix.

‘Plague of potholes’

The government is spending £46m repairing potholes

Chair Lillian Greenwood MP said: “Local roads are the arteries of prosperous and vibrant towns and cities. They are critical to the movement of goods as well as our own journeys. However, many people will not have to travel further than their local shops to see an extreme state of disrepair.

“This plague of potholes represents a major headache for all of us. The consequences of a deteriorating local road network are significant – undermining local economic performance and resulting in direct costs to motorists, through damage to road vehicles. The safety of other road users, particularly cyclists, is compromised.

“Our inquiry aims to investigate the situation in England, including current funding constraints and potential alternative models that could offer a solution. We know that this is a high priority issue among the public and I hope our inquiry will help put the onus on the Government to address it sooner rather than later.”

The Committee is appealing to road users and interested parties for written evidence on the state of England’s local roads and how they have fared over time. It is also seeking input on the direct and wider socioeconomic cost of not maintaining the roads.

You never know, you might receive a birthday greeting from the Queen before the road outside your house is resurfaced.

Roundabout in Tavistock

People don’t know how to use roundabouts

Roundabout in Tavistock

Motorists in Tavistock, Devon, are being told to stop misusing roundabouts by the town’s police officers.

According to a report in the Tavistock Times Gazette, a campaign has been launched to crack down on dangerous driving, which follows a number of near misses. Local PCs and community support officers will be monitoring the town’s flat and mini-roundabouts, contacting drivers who flout the rules of the road.

“A lot of people don’t observe the rules of roundabouts,” said a police spokesperson. “We have seen a number of near misses and we have been observing people and are going to be sending out letters to anyone we see doing this with words of advice.

“We want people in Tavistock to start observing the rules of roundabouts.”

According to a local source, the two main problem areas are the A386 at the junction of Plymouth Road and Brook Lane, along with the mini-roundabout at the junction of West Street, Duke Street and Drake Road, outside the town hall.

Rule 188 of the Highway Code is clear on the use of mini-roundabouts: ‘Approach these in the same way as normal roundabouts. All vehicles MUST pass round the central markings except large vehicles which are physically incapable of doing so.’

Tavistock’s police officers have had enough, adding: “The problem is people seem to think it is OK. We’ve had people doing it in front of us. There’s a real cross-section of people doing this too, young people through to older people. We want to make people understand that roundabout discipline still counts on flat roundabouts.”

75% of Tavistock drivers unable to circumnavigate a roundabout

Tavistock roundabout

It didn’t take long for us to find evidence of the blatant disregard for roundabout etiquette. A quick look on Google Maps revealed this Ford Focus going straight over a mini-roundabout on Plymouth Road, blissfully unaware of the camera car following along behind.

Figuring that this could be a one-off, we headed to Tavistock in search of proof that the town’s people are in fact a model of good manners, sticking to the letter of the law.

Sadly, the reverse is true. In a five-minute spell, a staggering 15 of the 20 cars turning right from Bedford Square into Duke Street failed to circumnavigate the mini-roundabout. That’s a failure rate of 75%.

One driver in a Nissan Micra had the cheek to ‘toot’ a pigeon as he drove the wrong way on the roundabout. Will nobody think of the Columbidae?

Determined to paint Tavy’s drivers in a better light, we nipped across town to the roundabout at the junction of Plymouth Road and Brook Lane.

In just 60 seconds, a total of 15 cars emerged from the Plymouth direction. Of these, 11 drove over the roundabout, with four observing the rules of the road. Again, that’s a failure rate approaching 75%. The town’s police officers will be writing an awful lot of letters…

What are your thoughts on Tavistock’s clampdown on roundabout abusers? Is it a minor misdemeanour or a dangerous act that needs to be nipped in the bud? Are people misusing roundabouts in your hometown? Let us know via the comments or send in your own dashcam evidence. To paraphrase Alan Partridge, stop doing roundabouts wrong.

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