Road Safety Foundation's Kate Fuller talks about how valuable iRAP's star ratings are, and how Local Authoroties can use the toolkit to make their roads safer.
I joined the Road Safety Foundation as Director for Road Safety Engineering in April 2019 and was introduced to iRAP Star Ratings, Star Ratings for Design and Risk Mapping. I came to the RSF from TRL and prior to that, I had worked for 15 years in local government.
In my time in local government I worked in the Traffic Management and Road Safety (TM & RS) discipline, culminating in eight years as the Team Leader for TM & RS at a Unitary Authority. During this time, I spent hours talking with members of the public and Councillors concerned about road safety issues in their area and their feeling that an area or junction ‘was a crash waiting to happen’. Because of limited resources, I would have to explain that funding had to be spent in areas which had a history of crashes rather than those which had none. It was a difficult discussion to have with them, which was often emotive.
When I was introduced to the iRAP tools of Star Ratings, Star Rating for Design  and Risk Mapping , I wished they had been available to me years earlier! The tools enable the safety of a road to be assessed and quantified. Star Ratings are based on road inspection data providing a simple and objective measure of the level of safety of infrastructure which is ‘built-in’ to the road for vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. Five-star roads are the safest while one-star roads are the least safe.
Local Authorities (LAs) in the UK are using the iRAP toolkit to ascertain how safe their roads are and to focus investment into measures that will give the best returns. They are using the data generated by the iRAP surveys to generate affordable and economically sound Safer Road Investment Plans (SRIP) through using the iRAP ViDA toolkit.
The investment plans consider the existing road features and the speed and volume of traffic. This information is used to model expected fatalities and serious injuries (FSI) and then safety treatments are applied systematically to test which will give the greatest returns. The investment plan provides an estimate of the number of FSI that would be prevented if a treatment were implemented and quantifies the societal benefit, comparing this with the cost to provide a Benefit Cost Ratio. In this way LAs can have a full appreciation of the investment business case and have confidence that the interventions are likely to deliver results. The tools arm LA practitioners with the information they need to make the case for investment in road safety measures both to senior colleagues and Councillors and to funders from outside organisations. It means that road safety can compete with other transport projects on an equal footing.
These are powerful tools for LAs, a way to assess risk and potential areas to be addressed, before they become an issue and that is it why it is so crucial to shout out about the importance of road design during road safety week this year.