Half the UK's motorways fail to score top marks for safety, while A-roads are even worse, according to a new report.
The Government is being urged by the report's authors to place greater emphasis on the safe design of roads and so cut the billions of pounds that accidents cost the economy every year.
Road network fails to get top marks
The recommendation comes from the Road Safety Foundation, which revealed that just half of the countrys motorway network scores the maximum four-star safety rating, while more than 75% of dual-carriageways get just three stars, and two-thirds of the single-carriageways manage just two stars.
John Dawson, chairman of the European Road Assessment Programme (EuroRAP), which carried out the research, said, 'Most deaths happen on busy one- or two-star main single carriageway roads that need urgent investment in affordable safety line markings, safety fencing and better junction layouts.
'Road crashes cost England's economy 18 billion annually, but we could make road travel as safe as rail or air. UK roads can be the safest in the world over the next decade if the same high-return investment in safe road design is made as other leading nations.'
Roads rated for risk of death and disabling injury
The foundation inspected 95% of the 4350 miles of motorways and trunk roads in England, and rated them on how well the design protects users from death or disabling injury when a crash occurs.
Among the sections of the motorway network scoring just three stars are parts of the M40, M4, M11 and M25. Meanwhile, parts of the A5, A52 and A49 were among the two-star scoring single-carriageway roads.
How roads are rated
The Foundation's road safety assessment looks at three main areas:
• Protection provided if vehicles run off the road;
• Risk of head-on collisions;
• Safety of junctions
Dr Joanne Hill, director of the Road Safety Foundation, said, 'Motorways are our safest roads, scoring well on two of these factors, but half do not protect road users who run off the road.'
She also said that 90% of dual carriageways have poor protection for lay-bys and minor access roads, while 91% of single carriageways fail in run-off and head-on collision protection.
Motorway sections with the lowest average three-star rating
M40 J15 to M42 J3A
M5 J8 to M50 J4
M4 J14 to J15
M11 J6 to J8
M20 J8 to J10
M1 J17 to M45 J1
M25 J20 to J22
M1 J26 to J28
M54 J0 to J7
M42 J0 to J3
M3 J3 to J5Length km
Dual carriageway sections with the lowest average three-star rating
A14 Description and length
Swindon Cirencester 27km
Dishforth Thirsk 12km
M23 Brighton 26km
Thirsk Middlesbrough 35km
M11 J9A A1304 Newmarket 19km
Billingham A184 Boldon 42km
M3 - Beacon Hill (A338) 35km
M3 J9 M4 J13 49km
M42 J11 M1 J23a 23km
Ipswich - Felixstowe 10kmDeficiency S = side run-off J = Junction
Single carriageway sections with the lowest average two-star rating
A120**Description and length
Daventry - Rugby (A428) 16km
Alcester M40 J15 21km
Long Preston M6 J36 42km
Bingham Grantham 21km
Hereford - Ross-on-Wye 22km
Leominster - Shrewsbury 60km
Bletchley Daventry 35km
Bingham Newark 19km
M1 J9 Bletchley 32km
York - Scarborough 59km
Braintree - Marks Tey 19km Deficiency S = side run-off J = Junction H = head-on**
S, J, H
S, J, H
*Includes some short lengths dual carriageway, often at the start or end of the section