There are fewer things that can be more unanimously agreed upon than our dislike of roadworks. Nothing is more frustrating than driving home from a stressful day at work, only to be met by the tell-tale speed limit signs, lane closures and other obstacles that make this a one of the biggest nightmares for motorists all over the country.
However, as unpleasant and disruptive roadworks can be, many of us take for granted just how important they are and how vital it is that we keep our roads in excellent condition, particularly as we continue to move forward into the future of road travel. In fact, a few years ago, the UK was ranked 37th in the World Economic Forum in terms of road quality. That’s behind fourteen other European countries such as The Netherlands, Austria and Switzerland.
Therefore, with climate change and increased road use sure to affect the quality of our roadways, it is important to recognise some of the most pressing issues that affect road users financially and in terms of their safety.
Potholes are a common complaint amongst drivers and can be caused for a variety of reasons. Bad weather, for example, is one of the most common causes of this issue, with rain seeping into the cracks in the road, then freezing and expanding once colder temperatures arrive. It’s no coincidence that we see an increase in potholes during the winter months, after all. However, with a steady increase in road users over the years and no sign of slowing down, the ‘rush hour’ has also extended, contributing to a faster wear and tear in the road surface over time.
With potholes being ubiquitous at this point with the British highway experience, it’s easy to forget how dangerous and serious the problem can be. Some experts have even referred to it in recent years as a ‘pothole crisis’ and it is easy to see why.
During 2020 about 89% of drivers were affected by potholes, with 12% having suffered damages to their car as a result. Considering that the average repair bill for such damage is £141.95, is it no wonder that data shows drivers significantly more concerned about the state of British roads than even as little as three or four years ago.
And while these issues vary from region to region, it is clear that the pothole crisis is a nationwide problem that is now more than just a nuisance, but a significant threat to public safety, as well as a financial risk to those relying on their own transport for their day-to-day tasks.
Faded line markings perhaps go unnoticed as a hindrance to road users, especially when compared to avoiding dangerous potholes. But most of us will appreciate the incredible difference that a freshly painted road makes to our driving experience, especially at night or in bad weather conditions.
However, line markings are not just there to look pretty and make our commute to work more aesthetically pleasing and can be a serious safety hazard when not maintained. For example, so-called ‘ghost markings’ on A-roads or motorways can easily confuse motorists driving at high speeds and cause serious accidents. While these markings are not the cause of fading over time, but rather, the remnants of line marking removal, the end result is still a dangerous one and can be found in countless places all over the UK.
The repercussions for faded line markings, however, can be seen in places like Nottingham, where a complex lane and roundabout system for getting in and out of the city has become even harder with some line markings having all but disappeared over time. Locals and taxi drivers have expressed their concerns over the lack of maintenance in this area that causes confusion and stress for anyone driving in these areas.
Some locals have even admitted to almost experiencing a collision thanks to the lack of visible line markings, further proving how vital these services are and how dangerous it can be when they are not properly maintained.
Skid resistance is an extremely important aspect of road maintenance that helps keep road users safe. However, it is thought that more than a quarter of the UK’s local roads do not have adequate skid resistance. These problems are likely to increase the chances of accidents, especially in bad weather, poor visibility and approaches to areas such as junctions, traffic lights, crossings and roundabouts.
High Friction Surfacing (HFS) is one of the best ways to ensure that roads are properly treated regarding skid resistance. In fact, HFS has led to the reduction of road accidents by around 57% since its introduction in the 1950 and when applied correctly, can last up to 10 years.
Unfortunately, with road maintenance lagging behind the demand for it, many roads in the UK have become unnecessarily dangerous, such as the A6033 in Calderdale, known to be one of the UK’s most dangerous roads. Work was finally carried out in 2021 to ensure that this route is as safe as possible for road users, including the application of HFS in July of last year.
While the work has been disruptive, the way any road maintenance will be disruptive on any busy road, the repercussions for not maintaining our road system can be catastrophic. Drivers can face financial strain, personal injury, or even death from any one of these road maintenance issues. With funding for many of these necessary services at an all time low in some cases, it is important to appreciate the work that is able to be completed, no matter how inconvenient.