Plan to use striking views by major roads to stimulate tired drivers

The green bridge over the A556 in Cheshire
The green bridge over the A556 in Cheshire

Major roads will be designed to offer drivers panoramic views to reduce the number of crashes caused by fatigue, Highways England has said.

The Government-owned company will attempt to make beautiful landscapes visible to motorists as it designs £15 billion improvements to motorways and major A-roads by 2021.

Highways England chief engineer Mike Wilson said: "Creating different vistas, different environments for people to consider, is a way of stimulating the road user.

"You might argue they're safer because of it."

Asked if he was concerned that drivers could be distracted by the scenery, Mr Wilson replied: "They should be focused on the road. But fatigue is a real challenge for road users."

Interesting views can "help them stay awake", he added.

Sixty-seven people were killed and 479 seriously injured in crashes on Britain's roads in 2016 when driver fatigue was a contributory factor, latest Department for Transport figures show.

Enabling drivers to see "statement structures" such as the Angel of the North in Gateshead and the Willow Man in Somerset gives them "a sense of location and how you're making progress on your journey", Mr Wilson said.

He claimed the cost of road schemes including maintenance bills could be cut if good design is "at the heart of the process and not a bolt-on at the end".

Highways England unveiled 10 principles for the design of upcoming schemes, including making them innovative, environmentally sustainable and long-lasting.

Previous projects include the use of traditional dry stone walls to "reinforce the A590's connection to the Cumbrian landscape" and a so-called green bridge which provides a safe crossing for badgers, voles and other small animals over the A556 in Cheshire.

Steve Gooding, director of motoring research charity the RAC Foundation, said: "Driving long distances in heavy traffic can be a monotonous business, and that's not good for helping drivers stay awake and alert.

"It is encouraging to see Highways England building the journey experience - including the views along the way - into its design thinking to give us all better, safer travel.

"The other part of the equation is making sure that motorway service stations are welcoming and affordable so that when drivers tire of the landmarks and landscapes there are adequate places to stop."