Road Safety Audit

A Road Safety Audit (RSA) is an evaluation of a new highway scheme, before, during and after construction, with the intention of identifying potential safety issues, and to propose measures to eliminate them. The 'after' period will involve monitoring of the highway scheme after it has been completed.

Notably, designs do not 'pass', or 'fail', safety audits. The audit only raises issues that need to be considered and addressed in line with the highway authority's procedures.

It is important to note that the design team retains responsibility for the scheme, and is not governed by the findings of the RSA. There is therefore no sense in which a scheme ‘passes’ or ‘fails’ the RSA process. Designers do not have to comply with the recommendations of a safety audit, although in such cases they would be expected to justify their reasoning in a written report. (Manual for Streets 3.7.8)

Road Safety Audits are primarily a matter of advice, rather than strict approval. These audits are useful - they can (and should) identify potential safety issues. However, in practice, whether they do or not will depend largely on the individual views and experiences of the audit team.

Regrettably, poor designs that are common in Britain can be accepted as a 'standard' treatment, on the basis that the designs have been employed elsewhere. This means that aspects of a design might not be considered an audit issue if that design is ubiquitous, or commonplace (for instance, 'pinch points' between a kerb and a central median). Indeed, an audit process won't necessarily pick up on more general (British) design issues that are often accepted without thought, like whether it is even acceptable to mix cycling with anything other than light volumes of motor traffic.

Even if an issue is raised at safety audit, it would not be difficult to argue that a scheme is 'acceptable', if a particular conflict within it is not a 'new' one, and that the proposals warn drivers or other road users of its existence, and therefore represent an improvement over the existing situation.

That said, audits are still important; they provide a check on any potential safety implications of a scheme. 

A road safety audit is carried out in accordance with this chapter [pdf] of DMRB, referred to as HD 19/15. This replaced the previous audit (HD 19/03) in April 2015. A summary of the changes contained in the new safety audit can be found here.

Further reading - The Ranty Highwayman, The Relevance of Road Safety Audits.