Road safety engineering

Great Britain has one of the best road safety records in Europe and the world.

Despite massive increases in traffic over the last few decades, the number of people killed on our roads has fallen from around 5,500 per year in the mid-1980s to well under 2,000 in 2018. However, even one life lost is too many so there is still lots of work to be done.

The municipal engineer has an important role to play in providing a 'safer' infrastructure for all road users. The level of human suffering caused by road accidents is immense and all civil engineers working within the highway and transportation environment are ideally placed to make a significant impact in helping to reduce the number and severity of road traffic casualties.

There are two complementary approaches to this work - accident reduction and accident prevention:

  • Accident reduction involves measures designed to reduce the number and severity of accidents based on an existing known pattern. This includes accident analysis and remedial engineering measures, and an effective road safety strategy and reduction plan.
  • Accident prevention relates to the application of measures to prevent accidents taking place in the future. This includes Road Safety and User Audits on all new infrastructure or alterations, and training engineers in up to date accident investigation & prevention.

Local safety schemes can provide excellent value for money in places with existing accident problems. By focusing on sites and areas with poor accident records, road safety engineers concentrate their efforts on places where it is known that people are actually being killed or injured, rather than on perceived risks. Safety engineers usually have an even greater impact on accident reduction by undertaking area-wide safety schemes rather than focusing only on selected individual sites. Research has shown that such schemes are relatively low-cost and can result in a significant reduction in collisions.


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