What is a Road Safety Audit?


What is a Road Safety Audit?

We are often asked by our clients ‘what is a Road Safety Audit and how does it work’? So, we thought it might be useful to put together a post to help guide you through the Road Safety Audit process. Please do get in touch if you need any help or want to discuss your Road Safety Audit needs.  


A good definition of Road Safety Audit is:

“The evaluation of highway schemes during design and construction to identify potential safety hazards which may affect any type of road user before the scheme is opened to traffic and to suggest measures to eliminate or mitigate those problems.”

Road Safety Audit is a systematic method of checking the road safety potential of new schemes affecting roads and the surrounding highway areas.

The term Road Safety Audit refers to a procedure for checking all new highways schemes, including modifications to exiting layouts (but not like for like schemes), and is now generally applied across the board to also include development schemes.

Road safety engineering in general developed from the late 1970s with an interest in reducing road casualties through better engineering. During the same period Road Safety Audit methods developed (often independently) until Road Safety Audit became mandatory on the UK trunk road network in the early 1990s with the introduction of the first Road Safety Audit Standards – HD19/90. Since then there have been several updates to the present GG119.      

During the last 25-30 years Road Safety Audit standards and their use have developed throughout the UK and the rest of the world.  In those countries with a now mature approach to road safety engineering Road Safety Audit has helped contribute to a significant decline in road casualties.

Aims and objectives of Road Safety Audit:

To ensure that highways schemes operate as safely as possible

To minimise collisions numbers and the severity of associated injuries

To consider the safety of all users, particularly vulnerable road users who are susceptible to the highest severity injuries

To improve the safety of the workforce maintaining and building the works. (design, construction and maintenance staff)   

What RSA should do:

Ensure that preventable road safety hazards are not present in a completed scheme – i.e. protecting lighting columns behind barriers on high speed roads;

Ensure that suitable collision reducing elements are included in completed designs – i.e. providing anti-skid on approaches to pedestrian crossings.

Ensure that design mistakes do not get constructed and contribute to subsequent collisions.

Who commissions a Road Safety Audit?

It is usually the overseeing organisation (local highway authority) that decrees a Road Safety Audit must be completed. But those responsible for commissioning the Road Safety Audit are usually the scheme promoter ( the designer or person responsible for the design of the scheme.

Who undertakes a Road Safety Audit?

Road Safety Audit should be undertaken by a team of at least two suitably experienced and trained road safety engineers. Other specialists can be called upon to get involved, and at later stages Police and local highway authority involvement is required.

The Road Safety Audit Team should be composed of two Auditors both of whom should have significant experience in the practical application of collision investigation and prevention methods.

Both members of the Road Safety Audit Team should also have completed at least 10 days of formal training in collision investigation and prevention.

Auditors must then complete a number of Audits as an Observer before they can progress to becoming an Audit Team Member, and then at least another 5 Audits and 4 years of AIP before they can progress to Audit Team Leader.  

All Auditors should also complete at least 2 days of CPD per year as well as maintain a minimum of 5 Road Safety Audits per year and at least one collision investigation study per 2 years. These are things that can be easily checked if an Auditor is a member of SoRSA (the Society of Road Safety Auditors).

For work on the trunk road, Transport for London network, and some local highway authorities it is now a requirement for at least one Auditor to have a Certificate of Competency in Road Safety Audit, a European Union Directive for uniformity in standards for Road Safety Audit.

And importantly a Road Safety Audit Team must be entirely independent of the design process. 

When are Road Safety Audits carried out and what are the stages?

Stage 1 – Preliminary design stage. High level overview of a scheme with a basic outline of proposals.

The Road Safety Audit will generally focus on items such as: local alignment; appropriate design speed; junction suitability and geometry; swept paths; visibility splays and distances; safety and needs of pedestrians, cycle and vulnerable road users / mobility impaired; topography; affect upon altered traffic behaviour.

This is the last opportunity for Road Safety Audit to have a significant change to a scheme as planning would normally be granted at this stage.

Stage 2 – Detailed design stage. The stage at which full construction detail is added to the general layout of a scheme including: signs and lines; drainage; lighting, fencing, barriers, construction details.

The Road Safety Audit will generally focus on items such as: visualising a 3-dimentional overview; is the environment and signing misleading; sightlines and visibility; signal design; operational safety of junctions; street lighting and street furniture; road levels and cambers; facilities for non-motorised users ,visually and mobility impaired; surfacing; landscaping.

This is often the last opportunity for lower cost changes to be made.

Stage 1 and 2 Road Safety Audit can be combined.   

Stage 3 – Post construction / pre-opening stage. The stage at which construction is complete but the scheme is not fully open. At this stage Road Safety Audit tries to identify any problems that may only be identifiable once built or are the result of the design or construction process. 

The Road Safety Audit Team will examine the highway scheme site during daylight and during the hours of darkness, so hazards particular to night operation can also be identified. The Audit Team Leader shall invite representatives of the Police, the Local Authority and Maintaining Agent to accompany the Audit Team to offer their views for the Stage 3 Audit.

The Audit will generally focus on items such as: has the design been properly translated into the scheme as constructed and that no inherent road safety defect has been incorporated into the works; have design changes occurred since the Stage 2 Road Safety Audit; local alignment; visibility; junction layouts; non-motorised user provision; signs, lines, lighting; signal operation. And how all users are using the scheme. 

Usually the last opportunity for final changes, tidying up of the scheme to be completed. Most highway authorities will see this as part of their signing off of the scheme before adoption of the works.   

Stage 4 – Monitoring. Comparing 36 months prior to 12 months post scheme completion collision data to assess whether a scheme has had a detrimental affect upon road safety.

Usually only required on the Trunk Road Network, but also used on local roads networks.  

Can be a desktop exercise. Only requires a site visit if a negative change is identified.

How are Road Safety Audits carried out?

Road Safety Audit is required by the overseeing organisation (the highway authority).

Designer prepares the Road Safety Audit Brief (scope of works, drawings, supplementary info – speed, collisions, transport statement, modelling work, contact details, etc).

Road Safety Audit brief and Team is approved (if on Trunk Road).

Road Safety Audit Brief is issued to Road Safety Audit Team Leader to trigger Road Safety Audit.

Desktop Road Safety Audit.

Site visit.

Draft Report / approval by Sponsor.

Final report is issued to the client and road authority.

Designers Response – For Designer to respond to the Road Safety Audit to either accept or reject identified problems and state what they will do.

What the Audit Team need from the client?

A Road Safety Audit Brief – (scope of works, all relevant details).


Supplementary info – speed, TA, transport statement, collision data, any other information.

Previous Road Safety Audit report and Designers response.

Contact details of highways officer, police.

What next?

Please do get in touch if you would like to discuss any projects with us and we will be happy to go through what is required with you.


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