What cost should be allocated for saving lives on the nation’s highways?
With so much emphasis on Health & Safety in the workplace and on employers to ensure strict compliance, why is this not extended to the highway network for the safety of all road users?
The World Health Organisation has stated there is in an epidemic of road deaths and all members of the United Nations have agreed to co-operate to reduce road deaths by 50% over the next 10 years.
During 12 years to 2011, the police recorded more than three million road casualties in the UK.
More than 36,000 people lost their lives and another 373,985 were seriously injured.
While the price paid by the victims and their families is inestimable, the annual cost to the economy is put between £15bn and £32bn.
What can the UK do?
Highway Road Markings provide guidance at all times as well as providing a significant line visibility impact to road users travelling at night. They are a safety feature of the highway.
The Highways Agency introduced TD26/07 as a road marking performance standard within some of their current MAC contracts and is also included in the new Asset Support Contracts. This standard included the requirement for annual retro-reflectivity testing with High Speed Monitoring equipment (Ecodyn) to provide evidence of compliance with the standard.
In the UK the current minimum standard of retro-reflectivity performance for road markings is 100mcd/lux/m² with an intervention level of 80mcd/lux/m².
It is often commented that road markings represents less than 1% of the total annual budget expenditure for maintenance on Motorway and Trunk Road Contracts and that, value for money, road markings provide the best return on investment as well as save lives.
They are often taken for granted by the road user and, like the surface they are travelling on, are always expected to be there. When they are missing, or difficult to see, there is the risk of a problem.
Independent condition surveys indicate the standard is deteriorating nationally suggesting road user’s lives being put at risk.
However, there appears to be a reluctance to implement improvements to the standard. Why?
In a factory, office or construction site environment, there is a requirement to carry out a risk assessment before any works can proceed.
Should those responsible for the maintenance of the nation’s highway network and safety of all road users be more proactive in ensuring recognised standards are implemented in full to reduce risks?
There is a solution.
Equipment is available that will determine the condition of road markings and provide a ‘risk assessment’ of the network. Any areas of existing road markings identified as failing to meet the safety performance standard should be rejuvenated by over-marking to avoid exposing road users to increased potential safety risks/hazards.
A company based in Devon introduced a high speed, low cost product to the market in 2001 and, after promotional and development work, established the product known as HyperLine into the highway road marking market.
They were commissioned to establish the condition of the road markings throughout the DBFO network and to submit a program of work designed to raise the standard of road markings in compliance with TD26/07 over a three year period and to then maintain this standard within an agreed annual budget expenditure on an on-going basis thereafter.
Since inception of this contract, the road markings on the DBFO network received HyperLine treatment and, as a result, have consistently exceeded the standard retro-reflectivity requirement.
This has been supported by annual Ecodyn surveys to provide evidence of TD26/07 compliance to the major contractor and, ultimately, to the HA.
There have been other MAC contracts where, once the system has been used, arrangements have been made to extend the use of HyperLine in subsequent seasons, thus proving the high impact of the product as well as its cost effectiveness and consistency.
Apart from any social and moral obligation, a contractual requirement exists in current and new HA contracts that should ensure there is no reason for the network highway road markings to be allowed to disappear or fall below the minimum performance standard.
The road marking industry has developed a performance specification in conjunction with the HA; there is a performance standard incorporated into most HA contract documents; there is equipment available that is able to measure and provide evidence against the performance standard; there are products available to meet the requirements of the specification and the standard; They have specialist equipment to ensure their applied product meets the requirements of the specification and the standard; operatives are fully trained and qualified to comply with the requirements of Sector Scheme No7.
What appears to be lacking is the recognition that highway road markings require a low cost funding commitment and an acknowledgement to accept the need to implement the safety standard to ensure we have provided the safest conditions possible for all road users.
The risk to road users is obvious. The risk to the tax payer is litigation brought against the HA or LA from an injured road user as the result of non-compliant highway road markings.
Travel by road in the UK is a high risk area where injuries and fatalities are regularly reported. We have an obligation as a nation to respond and react to ensure all necessary steps are taken to reduce this known risk to every road user.