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Fiona Bruce presents Real Story

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Real Story reveals England's dangerous roads

Category: News

Date: 20.06.2005
Printable version

A BBC survey for tonight's Real Story With Fiona Bruce (BBC ONE) suggests nearly half of English local authorities are underspending on road repairs - despite the fact that the AA Motoring Trust reports that roads are in poorer shape than they were in the Seventies.


According to figures obtained by Real Story from 88 English Authorities, 47 per cent admitted to spending below their budget allocation on road repairs in the last 12 months.


Nine out of ten roads in England are looked after by local authorities.


One in five miles of major local roads fail safety checks for skid resistance, says the AA Motoring Trust.


Paul Watters of the trust tells the programme: "We looked at some data for 2002 which shows that in areas that had under spent their allocations there were 900 more casualties than (those that) had overspent. The over spenders had good reductions in casualties."


Damages claims against councils by motorists, who say that sub-standard roads have damaged their vehicles or caused road accidents, have risen by 50 per cent according to the AA Motoring Trust over past 12 months.


Poorly maintained roads can lead to fatal accidents. Graham Jordan from West Sussex died after he lost control of his motorcycle on a badly repaired road.


Other motorists had already alerted the local authority to the potential hazard, but no action had been taken. The company responsible for the repair, Southern Water, were fined £500.


Graham's widow Pamela says: "We feel that all those parties that were involved collectively were responsible for my husband's death. Anyone of them could have averted what happened that day and saved his life."


18-year-old Laura Packer nearly lost her life because of a badly maintained road in Cornwall.


Inadequate drainage on the A38 near Notter Bridge meant the road flooded. Three cars came off the road and Laura broke her neck in the crash.


After initially denying they were to blame the Highways Authority later admitted responsibility.


"It was extremely difficult having all the physical effects of the accident and all the emotional effects and having someone trying to blame me for it when I knew that it definitely couldn't have been my fault," she says.


The road has now been improved and better drainage installed.


In addition Real Story investigates concerns that Thin Road Surfacing, also known as Stone Mastic Asphalt (SMA) - one of the most popular road surfaces in the UK - can cause skidding on roads.


Councils are using the surface even though they know that in some cases it can be slippery, even when dry.


Eleven English authorities in the BBC survey reported problems with 'early life skid resistance' - which means that in the first few months after the surface is laid road users need to drive as if they are in wet conditions, regardless of the weather.


Real Story has discovered that the Highways Agency is so concerned it has commissioned a series of skid tests on the surface. The results from the Transport Research Laboratory will be available later this year.


The tests follow a series of accidents across the country where skid resistance has been called in to question.


Paul Watters says: "There's concern that after it's laid, it's actually more slippery than perhaps the surface you're replacing. And that's a very big issue for drivers.


"So we need to really bottom this out because at the moment drivers, if they see a new surface, they assume it's perfectly good and far better than what was there.


"With Stone Mastic Asphalt, that isn't the case. The road in fact behaves like a wet road, even when it's dry."


He added: "Highway Authorities have a legal duty of care to road users and they must be properly guided on the use of SMA. They must test surface skid resistance after the material has been applied.


"Road users should be left in no doubt if the new surface needs 'bedding in' - warning signs are critical as is re-checking to establish when a safe level of skid resistance returns."


Derbyshire Police accident investigator, Sergeant Jim Allen, became aware of the problems of SMA in the summer of 2001 when he was investigating two road traffic accidents.


"When we were skidding the police car over these road surfaces we were skidding for further than we would have expected to do and further than we had become used to on older road surfaces," he tells the programme.


"We fairly quickly came to the conclusion that it was a function of the way SMA was laid. SMA is a kind of cake mix of stone chippings within the tar and it's all laid on the road surface in one go which means that all the stones have a coating of the binder material which is oil based.


"When you skid a car over that, one of the by products of friction is heat and we believed that that heat was melting the binder which was lubricating the patch between the tyre and the road and that's what was extending the skidding distance."


Despite the concerns, Real Story's survey has revealed that at least 16 local authorities plan to increase their use of thin road surfacing over the next five years.


Real Story with Fiona Bruce is broadcast on BBC ONE at 7.00pm tonight (Monday 20 June).




Category: News

Date: 20.06.2005
Printable version


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