Mark Sinclair's Blog: 29 January 2010 - Seeing stars
29 January 2010
Mark Sinclair is boss of leasing firm Alphabet
It had never occurred to me that roads, like hotels, army generals and car safety, might have star ratings.
Like most drivers, I suspect, my assessment of any particular stretch of road is usually purely subjective and traffic-dependent. If there's wall-to-wall congestion, it gets one star. If it's clear it gets four (or seven if the sun's shining as well and I'm heading for the coast).
As it happens, there exists an organisation named EuroRAP whose job is to inspect the highways and byways of Europe and award them a star rating.
Despite its name, EuroRAP doesn't actually employ Belgium's version of 50 Cent or Jay-Z to check out the bling factor of the local street furniture. It's actually a sister act to the car safety rating body EuroNCAP, with the same aim of making crashes more survivable.
Road star ratings are all about design and protection. A five star road rating, for instance, means that drivers are very unlikely to hit an immovable object or an oncoming vehicle if they swerve out of lane. Lower ratings mean there is successively more likelihood of a minor accident having major consequences.
But according to the Road Safety Foundation - the UK arm of EuroRAP - ten drivers a year die when their vehicle hits a tree after running off one of Britain's motorways. Only half of UK motorways reach the top safety rating while other major roads are much worse, the foundation reported this week.
Elsewhere, the Dutch government has committed itself to raising The Netherlands' entire road network to three star status by 2020. The Road Safety Foundation would like the UK to follow suit but, given the fact that the UK's road network is three times the size of Holland's and that road funding is squarely in the firing line for public spending cuts, they seem unlikely to get their wish in the near future.
All the same, it would be helpful for drivers to know which stretches of our network do meet the coveted five star standard. Maybe the DfT could add star markings to road signs or show them on those hugely expensive digital information panels alongside motorways.
The joint motto of EuroRAP and EuroNCAP is "five star drivers in five star cars on five star roads." One could say that they are aiming high - but where else should you aim when safety is at stake? Come to think of it, the first two parts of the motto could equally be the ultimate goal of every well-run fleet.