A common way of assessing road infrastructure safety across the EU has moved a step closer thanks to the publication of new guidance from the European Commission earlier this month.
The EU Road Infrastructure Safety Management Directive, which came into law in 2019, contains mandatory safety requirements for new roads (through road safety audits), regulates road safety inspections and introduces targeted safety inspections to be carried out in locations with low safety performance. This is to be done by means of a newly established Network Wide Road Safety Assessment.
But the legislation only applies to the TEN-T, all motorways, ‘primary roads’ and main roads outside urban areas that have received EU funding. The legislation also requires Member States to carry out the first regular Network Wide Road Safety Assessment of the existing networks by 2024.
The new guidelines, developed together with Member State experts, and in consultation with organisations including ETSC, are not mandatory, but will help EU Member States move towards common guidelines for what constitutes safe road infrastructure.
The guidance includes a framework addressing both a reactive (crash based) and a proactive (feature based) safety assessment, covering issues such as the lane width, road curvature, design of junctions, roadside layout and potential conflicts between motorised vehicles and vulnerable road users. It also suggests a methodology for a common safety rating system for classification of the existing road network based on a safety score of 1-5. This would enable authorities to identify priorities for future actions and investment to address infrastructure-related road safety concerns.
ETSC has welcomed the progress made on the new guidance. Member States do not currently have a harmonised approach for assessing infrastructure safety, so developing common guidelines is not straightforward. Considerable work still needs to be done to complete three other aspects of the legislation: road design quality requirements for vulnerable road users, design of ‘forgiving’ and ‘self-explaining/enforcing roads’ and reporting of crashes and their severity.
The directive also required the European Commission to look at the possibility of creating guidelines for road markings and signs in order to ensure they can be detected by automated and assisted driving systems – a cost benefit analysis was undertaken but little progress has been made on reaching an agreement on that front.