The Road Safety Foundation was founded in 1986 to mark the establishment of Britain’s first road safety target for the end of the century and to be a permanent legacy of the first European Road Safety Year. The charity was initially called the AA Foundation for Road Safety Research in recognition of its major donor at the time, the Automobile Association (then a member-owned motoring club). It became an independent charity – named the Road Safety Foundation – on 30 January 2007.


1986 to 1999

Between 1986 and 1999, the Foundation enabled work across the fields of driver behaviour, roads and vehicles and published over 30 reports, several of which provided the basis of new legislation (e.g. the 1996 New Drivers Act) or Government policy (e.g. the Foundation’s attitudes and speeding research). Subjects included:

  • The effects of age and gender on driving attitudes and ability
  • Contributory factors in urban and rural road crashes
  • Perception of road safety and risk, red-light running
  • Speeding and unlicensed driving
  • Effects of tyres and road surfaces in road crashes
  • Road safety education for young children and pedestrians.

The complete set of reports can be viewed and downloaded from the Library. The Foundation is grateful to the IAM Trust for enabling these reports to be electronically archived.

In this period, Britain exceeded its target to achieve a 33% reduction in the number of annual road deaths by the end of the century. Britain’s road safety programme became a world model demonstrating targeted action based on research evidence.

1999 to date

At the end of the last century the Foundation began to focus on developing the safe system of roads, vehicles and, in particular, the least understood third pillar- infrastructure safety.

With the support of British, Dutch and Swedish Governments, and working closely with the Dutch and German motoring organisations ANWB and ADAC, the Foundation initiated the award-winning European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP).

A sister initiative to the EuroNCAP programme of crash testing for cars, EuroRAP measures the safety of individual road sections using crash statistics and physical inspections of road design and layout, providing an internationally consistent platform of safety rating.

The Foundation first published risk mapping results for Great Britain in 2002, and has continued to undertake this analysis annually.  Now the Foundation has a large programme working in partnership with Highways England, Department for Transport and Local Authorities, demonstrating how risk can be managed across the road network, and economically viable life saving measures implemented.


2002: The Foundation published the first EuroRAP results in Britain, showing the risks faced by road users on the nation’s major roads. A national risk map was published in the AA’s Road Atlas, bringing the information to a wide audience.

2003: The 2003 EuroRAP results brought important new information to Britain’s road users showing how risk changed as they moved from one road to another. Alongside the most comprehensive route-by-route analysis of risk on Britain’s motorways and primary A roads, performance tracking showed Britain’s most improved roads and those where risk had remained persistently high over time. Working closely with road authorities, information was collated on the success stories and challenges faced by those responsible for public roads.

With completion of successful pilots in Britain, the Netherlands and Sweden, and momentum for a continuing pan-European programme, the Foundation established EuroRAP AISBL (Association Internationales Sans But Lucratif) – a Brussels based international not-for-profit association to manage Road Assessment Programmes across the EU.

2004: The 2004 EuroRAP results ( Tracking accident rates, road improvements and motorcycle involvement) provided the first complete comparison of risk rates for one three-year period with another across Britain’s motorways and primary A roads. Britain’s worsening problem of death and crippling injuries involving motorcyclists was also revealed. Consultation with road authorities showed that while some actively evaluated the benefits of their safety schemes, others were often not aware that the often minor measures they had implemented had saved lives.

2005: Now in its fourth consecutive year, the Foundation’s 2005 EuroRAP results ( Tracking collisions and road improvements, monitoring motorcycle involvement, benchmarking across Europe) included data from Ireland, comparing risk across borders on a consistent basis. Analysis of trends over time revealed that while Britain’s roads were getting safer, risk on Britain’s highest risk sections was 10 times that of the safest. Improving the safety standard of the network to just the average had the potential to reduce the death toll by 200 a year and serious injuries by 1,500.

Financially supported by the European Commission, motoring clubs and the motor industry, the Foundation began a 2-year programme to bring EuroRAP to maturity as a permanent institution for European Road Assessment. The continued strength of EuroRAP led to the development of Road Assessment Programmes in Australia and the United States, supported by the Foundation.

2006: In 2006, the Foundation carried out the first EuroRAP road inspections to Star Rate the national road network. The pilot project was  supported by the Highways Agency, Transport Scotland and the Welsh Assembly. Using the Foundation’s five years of performance tracking, the annual EuroRAP results for Britain ( How safe are Britain’s main roads?) revealed the substantial rewards possible from concerted efforts to make Britain’s roads safe, and the potential for measures to halve risk on the highest risk sections to save £300million to the economy and society and up to £10million on health service budgets. By 2006, assisted by EuroRAP, the AAA Foundation for Traffic Safety completed its widely supported usRAP pilot programme, and the federal Australian Automobile Association completed a series of annual reports on AusRAP. First results were also published in New Zealand (KiwiRAP). In 2006, the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) was formed as an umbrella organisation for expanding regional programmes. iRAP became a strategic partner of the World Bank and a signatory of the global movement to Make Roads Safe, an initiative addressing the growing worldwide road death toll of 1.2million annually. With the Foundation’s support and assistance, iRAP forged partnerships to undertake Road Assessment Programmes in low and middle income countries including Costa Rica, Chile, Malaysia and South Africa.

2007: The Foundation’s 2007 results demonstrated how many of Britain’s authorities had introduced engineering countermeasures to tackle high-risk routes in their areas, with the majority being quick, simple and cheap, involving little more than adopting modern signing, hazard markings and junction layouts. The report exposed how Britain was now falling behind those countries it used to lead and called on the Government to develop a large-scale national programme of high-return safety schemes. The Foundation also enabled work to Star Rate 7,000kms of England’s national road network, with financial support from the Highways Agency and the IAM Trust.

2008: As the British Government prepared to review its road safety strategy for the decade beyond 2010, the Foundation published Getting Ahead: Returning Britain to European Leadership in Casualty Reduction –  a policy paper proposing a Safe Road Infrastructure Programme on our A roads to save 10,000 deaths and serious injuries a year. The 2008 results published as part of the paper showed how 30% of the primary route network and a quarter of motorways failed to rate as safe. Following the Getting Ahead report, the Foundation sought support for a Campaign from Britain’s road user organisations, safety charities and professional highway bodies to create awareness of what safe road design could achieve. The Campaign for Safe Road Design was launched in the House of Lords in July 2008, with a keynote speech from the Road Safety Minister, Jim Fitzpatrick. Government support extended to a financial contribution to help support the extension of Britain’s EuroRAP programme to motorways and all A roads – the network on which 1% of GDP is lost through road crashes annually. In the first quarter of 2008, further extensive inspections of England’s trunk roads took place, enabling the completion of the 95% of the entire network. The Foundation became a partner in the three-year European Safety Atlas project led by EuroRAP. Supported by the European Commission, partners from 10 countries have pledged to prepare safety mapping for atlases for both public and professional use.

2009: In 2009 the British Government sought views on the vision, targets and measures for improving road safety beyond 2010 in A Safer Way: Consultation on Making Britain’s Roads the Safest in the World. The paper adopted many of the Foundation’s key proposals, supported the extension of the annual EuroRAP results to include all A roads, and embraced the safe system approach recommended by the world’s leading safety experts. The 2009 EuroRAP results ( Measuring and mapping the safety of Britain’s motorways and A roads) provided comprehensive route-by-route analysis of Britain’s motorway and A road network, increasing analysis from 22,000kms to 45,000kms, and showed that the network accounted for just 10% of Britain’s road length but over 50% of road deaths. With this the Foundation committed to a decade of support for authorities and public to make Britain’s progress on removing risky roads transparent. The national risk map was carried in Collins Road Atlases. Working with national and leading local road authorities, the Foundation began a pilot project to generate and trial a Safe Road Infrastructure Programme on key routes. Using EuroRAP Risk Mapping and Star Rating, the work validated estimates of costs-benefits and demonstrated the rewards possible from a systematic proactive national approach to road infrastructure improvements.

2010: In January 2010, the Foundation released the first comprehensive EuroRAP Star Rating results covering 95% of England’s trunk roads, demonstrating how good road design and layout can protect users from death or disabling injury when a crash occurs. Protect and Survive: Star Rating England’s Trunk Road Network for Safety revealed that 50% of motorways were rated as 4-star, 78% of dual carriageways as 3-star, and just two-thirds of single carriageway trunk roads 2-stars. The Foundation continues to work closely with the Highways Agency, the UK’s largest road authority, in helping to guide improvements across the network.

On 30 June 2010, the Foundation published Saving Lives for Less: Identifying the network on which Britain’s road deaths are concentrated. The report showing, not only that Britain can reduce road deaths and serious injuries, but that it can do so with high economic returns on a relatively small mileage of high-risk roads. Results included national and regional mapping of risk and performance tracking across Britain’s motorway and A road network. Additional mapping showing risk by Parliamentary constituency boundaries and for those with colour deficiency were also produced.

In December 2010 the Foundation was awarded the Prince Michael International Road Safety Premier Award. The honour was given in recognition of the Foundation’s significant role in establishing a respected, systematic method of assessing roads with the EuroRAP programme and helping authorities make our roads safe.