Road safety professionals have flagged that a lack of investment into the UK’s roads is causing a failure to tackle road safety. Limited funding is one of the main reasons that the UK is missing out on road safety innovation, which experts believe is linked to an increase in road deaths last year for the first time in 10 years.

Making our roads safer

At the Premier Highway Event, 60.3% of 2,000 road safety professionals said that new innovation and technology are integral in improving both road safety and driver behaviour. However, 42% stated that the lack of budget available is creating a barrier preventing them from implementing new ideas.

32% of the professionals surveyed also felt that unwillingness to change and aversion to risk are getting in the way of the UK trying out new techniques to make our roads safer to drive on.

Government austerity: failure to tackle road safety

(Credit – Darren Moloney)

Pothole season

One of the biggest safety issues facing road users is potholes. They caused 96 crashes in 2016, an increase of 12% compared to the previous year. In addition to this, 467 cyclists were in accidents caused by poor quality, defective roads. Meanwhile, one in three motorists claim to have suffered vehicle damage due to a pothole. This includes damage to tyres and suspensions, which are both costly to replace.

Over a million potholes were reported to highway authorities and councils last year. They cost £3.1 million to repair. The local authority who made the most pothole-related pay outs was Wiltshire Council, which ended up with a £505,000 bill. Westminster City Council paid out the most per pot hole, at a staggering £2,400 each.

Despite all of the money that has already been spent on repairing potholes and paying out for damage caused to vehicles, 70% of drivers think that more should be done. This shows just how dangerous and worrying these road defects are. The situation is made worse by the fact that some local authorities judge certain potholes to be too shallow to fix – one North Yorkshire cyclist suffered a concussion after hitting a pothole, but the local authority argued that the road had passed a recent inspection.

New technology

Prevent potholes from occurring would mean that the money spent repairing them could be invested into trying out new road safety technology and innovations.

Nottingham University Lecturer Dr Alvaro Garcia may have the answer. He was inspired by a surprising source: a contestant on the Spanish version of MasterChef. The contestant gave Dr Garcia the idea to use spherification to create small, solid balls of sunflower oil. These can be mixed in with road asphalt and help to prevent cracks from becoming worse.

The balls work by sensing when cracks appear in the asphalt and breaking to release the oil to help to stick the road back together. Tests have shown that within just two days, the damaged road has been restored. This is fantastic news for local authorities who are spending so much of their budget on repairing potholes.

It has been said that this innovative solution could extend a road’s lifespan from around 12 to approximately 16 years.

This self-healing road research at Nottingham University is being funded by Highways England. It demonstrates the impact that investment in new technology can have on road safety. The innovation is particularly exciting due to its sustainability and environmentally friendly nature.

The price of innovation

Cuts are being made across the board in the UK. However, it seems that not providing enough funding to keep drivers safe on the road is a dangerous move by the government. Road deaths in the UK increased by 4% last year, reversing a decade of improving safety figures. Investing in improving road safety would be more cost effective than responding reactively to issues and could also help to save lives.

With this in mind, surely the government should find further funding to invest in new technology and innovations to keep our roads safer. Doing so could help to keep motorists safe, as well as reducing the need for future expenditure on repairing our decaying road network.

Have you noticed a decline in the quality of the roads in your local area? Has your council been quick to act or have things simply been left to deteriorate? Share your experiences below. 

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