Making Roads Smoother Could help to Save the Planet

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If you spend any significant time at all behind the wheel of a motor vehicle then it pretty much goes without saying that you’d like to see the surface of the roads upon which you’re driving improved. Think back to the last glitzy car advert you saw on TV. Forget the car itself. Forget the fact that it can park itself and produce looks of slack-jawed admiration on the faces of the fortunate pedestrians you happen to cruise past. Disregard, even, the fact that this particular vehicle will apparently make you utterly irresistible to supermodels.

Think about the road.

On TV:

Car adverts are designed to make driving look like the most fun in the world. That’s why the roads they feature are completely free of any other vehicles, roll through some of the world’s most stunning scenery and are, without fail, as smooth and blemish free as the complexion of that supermodel I mentioned earlier. They are the kind of roads which would make it feel like you’re basically driving along a gigantic snooker table

Reality:

Then think about the roads you actually drive on. Not quite the same are they? As you actually slalom from side to side, dodging the potholes, cracks and debris in your path, it’s probably best not to think about the pristine roads that feature in car adverts. If you do, you may find that the attention you should be paying to other road users is distracted somewhat by that strange crunching noise, which is actually the sound of you grinding your teeth into a fine white dust.

How can smoother roads benefit the environment?

Whilst it would be wonderful to sample the roads they use in car adverts on purely selfish terms – a beautiful smooth ride, peace and quiet and a set of shock absorbers which aren’t being battered into submission – new research just out indicates that better road surfaces would also be better for the global environment. The European Commission has just released ‘A European Strategy for Low-Emission Mobility’ and a part of the document, dedicated to drawing up plans to reduce carbon emissions across Europe, focuses on the positive impact which a better road surface can have on the emissions which vehicles are pumping out.

Bodies such as EUPAVE (the European Concrete Paving Association), EAPA (the European Asphalt Pavement Association) and FEHRL (the Forum of European National Highway Research Laboratories) all point out what, once it’s been highlighted, does appear to be a fairly obvious fact. The smoother the surface of a road is, the less resistance a vehicle will encounter and so the less power it will have to use, automatically lowering the fuel burned and exhaust fumes emitted.

According to the general secretary of FEHRL, Thierry Groger, smoother roads can produce a reduction in emissions of up to 5%. In an era during which drivers are lectured more or less constantly upon the need to embrace the latest technological change in order to do their bit for saving the planet (a wholly admirable aim in its own terms) it’s refreshing to read about an approach which doesn’t require complex new technology. That also isn’t reliant upon the sacrifice or investment of drivers and, most pleasingly, would improve the environment at the same time as making driving more pleasurable. The only thing that can’t be promised is that supermodel giving you a second glance…

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