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What is a road safety audit (RSA)?

A road safety audit (RSA) is a procedure adopted as part of the design process for roads that allows an independent overview of the proposal for safety issues. It is an internationally recognised function with the United Kingdom’s Design Manual for Roads and Bridges being upheld as a gold standard that others aspire to. GG119 “Road Safety Audit” supersedes earlier versions of HD19 and is primarily aimed for Motorways and Trunk Roads that form the Strategic Road Network. The process is also covered within European Directive 2008/96/EC and any road safety audits carried out on the Trans European Road Network must have a member of the audit team holding a Certificate of Competency in road safety audit.

Many local road authorities have adopted GG 119 as their standard for road safety audits, but in some cases such as Dundee City Council and West Lothian Council the roads authority have written their own standards.

The process in most cases includes the preparation of a report and the agreed response and action by the roads authority and their designers/contractors. Not only is the process there to further develop the design to achieve high levels of safety, but also protect the roads authorities, their designers and contractors from litigation.

What is the purpose of a road safety audit?

The purpose of a road safety audit is to identify safety issues relating to the proposal that may result in a collision or user injury. A road safety auditor considers all road user types which includes how maintainers will use facilities for their use. The road safety audit is not a design check, does not consider if the scheme has been constructed as per the design or to standard, unless there is an associated safety issue.

In response to issues identified, the process includes a response by the designer/contractor on how they wish to resolve these and the overall agreement of the overseeing organisation (usually the roads authority) to proceed.

Is a road safety audit a legal requirement?

Road safety audits are a requirement under the terms of the Design Manual for Roads and Bridges for the strategic road network, and under the terms of European Directive 2008/96/EC for the Trans European Road Network.

Although not seen as a legal document, in the event of a serious or fatal incident on a scheme, the road safety audit process may be examined and the report, agreed response with actual action taken may be used in evidence. In the worst case scenario this could lead to a charge of Corporate Manslaughter/Homicide on roads authority, consultants and contractor.

In particular a criminal or civil investigation would want evidence that the road safety audit was carried out in accordance with standard, if the audit team were suitably qualified and approved by the overseeing organisation, what was raised and how the issues were responded to, and actions taken.

It is therefore important for all parties to ensure the procedures are followed correctly and responses to the issues raised are subject to safety risk assessment to identify and agree any resultant risks.

Road safety audit stages

In GG119 there are four road safety audit stages:

  1. Stage 1 – Completion of Preliminary Design
  2. Stage 2 – Completion of Detailed Design
  3. Stage 3 – Completion of Construction
  4. Stage 4 – Post opening monitoring

Stages 1 and 2 can be combined for smaller schemes, Stage 4 is usually carried out if there are reported injury collisions or concerns raised within a year of the scheme completion (when a year’s collision data is available) and an Interim Audit can be undertaken at any stage. The interim audit is often used for small parts of a scheme that may have been substantially altered since a previous stage has been completed.

When is a road safety audit required?

GG119 states “Where there are physical changes to the highway impacting on road user behaviour or resulting in a change to the outcome of a collision on the trunk road and motorway network, road safety audit (RSA) shall apply” and “shall not apply where a physical change to the highway will not impact on road user behaviour or change the outcome of a collision on the trunk road and motorway network.”

When a designer feels that a road safety audit is not required this should be agreed with the overseeing organisation, who in most cases will be the roads authority. The best advice is to follow the road safety procedures when in doubt.