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Highway Safety Policy vers 6.1 effective 1st January 2021


Last Updated

Section 1 - Introduction

  1. This Highway Safety Policy supersedes the Highway Safety Policy version 6.0 published in September 2016 and all previous versions.
  2. Defects that may create a danger or serious inconvenience to highway users are defined in Appendix 1, using the criteria for each type of defect and are referred to as investigatory criteria. These defects are identified and managed through a system of inspection.
  3. Using a risk assessment matrix, defects that meet a defined investigation criteria are assessed to determine the degree of risk they may pose to a highway user and what is an appropriate and reasonable response.
  4. This policy has been developed based on the experience of maintaining the highway in Devon and following extensive trials and testing. The following documents have been used in developing the Highway Safety Policy:
    • Highways Act 1980
    • Well-Managed Highway Infrastructure: A Code of Practice (October 2016) (NCoP)
    • Well Managed Highway Liability Risk (March 2017)
    • Better Together Devon 2014 – 2020
    • Kindred Associations Guidance on Highway Liability Claims

Section 2 - Legislation

  1. The Highways Act 1980 sets out the duties of a highway authority in England and thus Devon County Council. In particular Section 41 imposes a duty to maintain the public highway.
  2. The majority of claims against authorities relating to the use of the highway functions arise from the alleged breach of Section 41.
  3. Section 58 of the Act provides for a defence against action relating to an alleged failure to maintain, on grounds that the authority has taken such care as in all the circumstances was reasonably required to secure that the part of the highway in question was not dangerous for the appropriate type of traffic.

The following shall be taken into account:

    • the character of the highway and the traffic which was reasonably expected to use it
    • the appropriate standard of maintenance
    • the standard of repair a reasonable person would expect
    • whether the Highway Authority knew or could reasonably have been expected to know

Section 3 - Purpose of Safety Inspections

  1. The principle purpose of a Highway Safety Inspection is:
    • to meet the statutory obligation of Devon County Council to maintain the highway in a safe condition
    • to identify defects that are likely to create a danger or serious inconvenience to highway users or the wider community
    • to determine the degree and timing of repairs
    • to provide condition data of the network to the Asset Management Team assisting in the management of the highway network and future maintenance programmes
    • to provide a defence against highway claims

Section 4 Training and Qualifications

  1. All personnel involved in safety inspections must be competent and have successfully completed the UK Highway Inspectors training and certification scheme approved by the UK Roads Board in 2010 or any subsequent revision.
  2. It is desirable that all personnel involved in safety inspections should be included on the National Register of Highway Inspectors currently held by the Institute of Highway Engineers.
  3. All personnel undertaking a safety inspection must demonstrate competency in the current Chapter 8 safety at street works and road works.

Section 5 - Safety Inspection Regime

The NCoP recommends the use of a risk assessment to determine the degree of risk a defect which meets an investigation criterion impacts upon highway users. The result of this assessment defines an appropriate response from immediate to no further action. Table 1.0 below and the response category definitions have been developed following consultation with Safety Inspectors, Insurance Manager, County Solicitor and other Stakeholders.

Risk matrix table and response categories


Section 6 - Defect Investigatory Criteria

  1. The purpose of a safety inspection is to identify defects within the highway that are likely to create a danger or serious inconvenience to highway users or the greater community. In order to provide clear guidance, minimum investigatory criteria has been developed using a risk and evidence based approach, benchmarking with other Highway Authorities and the NCoP.
  2. Detailed descriptions of defects and the defined investigatory criteria are provided in Appendix 1.

Section 7 – Safety Inspection Routes and Frequencies

  1. Safety Inspections will be undertaken on the following highway elements:
    • Carriageways with maintenance categories 3 to 11
    • Footways with maintenance categories F1 to F4
    • Urban metalled Public Rights of Way
    • Cycleways with maintenance categories A, B & C
    • Park and Ride sites maintenance category P1
    • Devon County Council maintained Picnic Sites (as carriageway)

2.  The frequency of safety inspection assigned to each maintenance category is detailed in the Table 2.0 below.

Table 2.0 Safety Inspection Frequency


Maintenance Category Frequency
3  National primary route 1 month
4  County primary route 1 month
5  Secondary county route 1 month
6  Local distributor 6 month
7  Collector road 6 month
8  Minor collector road annual
9  Service road annual
10  Minor service road annual
11 Minor lane every 2 years


F1  Primary walking route 1 month
F2  Secondary walking route 3 month
F3  Link footway 6 month
F4  Local access footway annual
Urban metalled public right of way every 3 years


A  Part of carriageway as carriageway
B  Remote from carriageway 6 month
C  Cycle trails annual

Park & Ride Sites

P1  Park & ride 6 month

3.   The tolerance on the period between inspections will be as detailed in Table 2.1 below. Where days are stated they will be working days.

Inspection Frequency Tolerance
Monthly & 3 monthly +10 days or any time before due date
6 monthly +15 days or any time before due date
annually +30 days or any time before due date
every two years +45 days or any time before due date
every three years +45 days or any time before due date

Section 8 – Safety Inspection Delivery

  1. Highway safety inspections should not be carried out during the hours of darkness/dusk or under conditions of poor visibility e.g. snow, fog, heavy rain. Periods of peak traffic flows should be avoided where possible.
  2. Footway inspections will be walked. Cycleway inspections can be walked or cycled.
  3. Carriageway and cycleway inspections can be undertaken on foot if appropriate for practical reasons or if the associated footway is being inspected at the same time.
  4. Driven inspections will be undertaken by two people with the passenger being a qualified inspector and the vehicle being driven at a speed appropriate to the road being inspected.
  5. Dual carriageway inspections and sections of three lane carriageway will be undertaken in each direction of travel.

Section 9 – Recording of Defects

  1. Defects that meet the investigation criteria are recorded on a data capture device using an inspection route loaded on the device prior to beginning the inspection. In the unlikely event of a catastrophic IT failure inspections will be recorded manually at the time of inspection and the system updated when made available.
  2. When possible the use of a Global Positioning System device will be used so that a trace can be produced for evidence that an inspection has taken place on the date and time recorded and also allow for a more accurate positioning of defects.
  3. When identified as a defect requiring investigation the risk assessment process will determine the appropriate action. Where this is deemed a Category 4 defect a more detailed rationale for the chosen action will be provided.
  4. Defects associated with a Statutory Undertaker will be recorded and the Section 81 noticing procedure started by the end of the next working day. Where possible any associated costs should be charged to that undertaker.

Section 10 – Investigatory Action and Repair of Actionable Defects

  1. The standards and specification of the defect repair will be as detailed in the contract document in use at the time the defect is found and an order issued (where appropriate).
  2. Where a safety defect is made safe by means of temporary signing or repair, arrangements will be made to ensure the continued integrity of the signing or repair until a permanent repair can be completed.

Section 11 – Special Requirements

  1. At times defects identified within an area of carriageway will require the investigatory criteria of a footway defect to be applied.

They are as follows:

  • the width of a defined pedestrian crossing point identified by tapered and dropped kerb units, often accompanied by tactile paving
  • light controlled crossings
  • zebra crossings
  • carriageways that are closed to all motorised vehicles as pedestrianised areas for specific periods of the day.

2.  For the purpose of safety inspection a metalled carriageway, footway or cycleway is one where the surface consists of a hard, bound material such as asphalt, concrete or clay paving / paviours. An unmetalled carriageway, footway or cycleway is one where the surface material is unbound.

3.  Many highways have been dedicated and adopted with historic features that would not be acceptable in a current highway design. This might include steps, cellar openings or drainage arrangements that present potential trip situations worse than the intervention levels suggested in this document. These should not be recorded as defects, as in law the highway has been adopted with these encumbrances and the public must take appropriate care.

4.  Carriageways, cycleways and footways and other highway features between the STOP road markings; the traffic warning lights, barriers & associated signs; & railway boundary & vehicle restraint systems are the responsibility of Network Rail or the private rail operator (for preservation lines and The Seaton Tramway). Although the County Council is not responsible for safety inspections between the STOP markings, any potential safety defect identified during safety or any other inspections must be immediately reported to Network Rail or the private rail operator.

5.  Bridges and retaining walls will be subject to a passing visual inspection during the carriageway, footway or cycleway inspection. Any surface defects that meet the investigatory criteria will be assessed according to the relevant carriageway defect.

Appendix 1 – Defect Investigatory Criteria

  1. The following defect descriptions are used to determine what defects within the highway network requires investigation.
  2. The criteria has been developed using a mixture of best practice, risk assessment and benchmarking.
  3. Defects take into account policies of neighbouring highway authorities and where possible similar parameters have been adopted to ensure consistency.
  4. Defects are listed below and will be applied to the appropriate element of the highway regardless of position. A more detailed description of each defect and the position within the highway is provided defect by defect.