More effective spending of even just a small amount of the money spent on road maintenance could save up to 6,000 lives on the roads over the next decade, said the Road Safety Foundation as it recommended a 10-year safety programme.
The body produced a report for the RAC Foundation which also said Britain loses as much as £30 billion each year in the cost of crashes, most of these on motorways and main roads.
But benefits of £25-£35 billion are possible as roads with just one-star and two-star safety ratings could be upgraded in the next 10 years within existing budgets. Such a move would also prevent the cost ofcar insurancefrom leaping.
Achieving the savings would need road authority leaders being offered guidance to focus on the full costs and benefits of saving the most lives for the money available.
The report said the total cost of crashes was well estimated by the Department for Transport but the way costs fell on families, business, carers, NHS, emergency services and the insurance industry was poorly understood.
It said the cost of fatal and serious crashes on the Highways Agency's network of England motorways and major A roads amounted to £1.2 billion annually. The cost of serious crashes on English local authority A roads was £2 billion.
The report proposed a 10-year programme, costing less than 10% of existing road budgets, to bring main roads with safety flaws up to scratch. Flaws in such roads include missing safety fencing and unsafe junction layouts.
Among things called for in the report were technical improvements to the evaluation of crash costs and recording of serious crashes by police and hospitals, with more focus on long-term care and the 1 financial costs of road crashes to healthcare and emergency services.
RAC Foundation director Professor Stephen Glaister said: "Given that Britons are more likely to die on the roads than in any other daily activity, this report should make us first angry, and then determined to act to see more lives saved - at little or no extra cost.
"We will never prevent all road accidents but we can do a considerable amount to reduce their effects simply by improving the road environment and making it as forgiving as possible. We understand road risks well enough to know how to cut this grim toll of death and injury, yet we fail to implement cheap and effective measures to combat them."
Copyright © Press Association 2011