After decades claiming the end of tolls, there are already many in Catalonia who miss the barriers and the orange booths. During the days of the Sant Joan bridge, what is usual in recent months will happen, amplified, both on weekdays and weekends: kilometric queuesin many cases aggravated by incidents on the road. Traffic has swung from the back roads at major highways and this has had a domino effect on the accident rate, which has also mutated skin. There is no good news when it comes to road safety and there is only one life affected, but in all this situation you can validate the saying that ‘there is no harm that is not good’. It is true that claims have grown substantially in the AP-7 (30% more and account for 40% of the accidents recorded on the main Catalan roads), but in global terms, the drop in accident rate it is almost 20%.

What will be compared here, thanks to the data provided by the Catalan Transit Service, there are 12 sections of the vital arteries of Catalonia and in the same period with and without tolls, that is, from September 1, 2021 (the day on which the barriers were raised on the AP-7, the C-32 north and AP-2) to June 8, 2022, and the same dates between 2018 and 2019, before covid. The first thing that draws attention is that on these Catalan roads there has now been a 37% fewer accidents with fatalities and serious injuriesbut the total number of deaths this 2022 in the entire network is exactly the same as in 2019, with 77 lives lost on the asphalt; the last one, the driver of a car that died on Saturday after colliding with another vehicle on the A-2, at the height of Esparraguera in the direction of Bruc. If we look at the figure for all of Catalonia and referring to the year so far, the overall decline of accidents with deaths and serious injuries is 21.3% compared to 2019. Serious injuries, 23% less; minor injuries, 18.1% less.

No frontal crash

The analysis of the data perfectly reflects the vehicle traffic especially towards the AP-7, since the growth of accidents with deaths and serious injuries in the axis of the Mediterranean it is 25% in the southern section and 66.7% in the north. While the roads they circulate in parallel and that were abuzz before the erection of barriers have experienced a spectacular drop in accidents more serious: 75% less on the N-340 (it has gone from 20 to five) and 60% less on the north N-II (from 10 to four).

Cause effect; pass much fewer cars because the AP-7 has 40% more traffic than before the end of tolls, and there are fewer accidents. But with an addition: those on motorways are usually less serious, because there is no frontal collision as there is a median between both directions of travel. In fact, the 55% of those registered in this artery are scopesthat is, a vehicle whose nose collides with the back of the one in front.

That there is the same number of deaths despite the fact that there are fewer serious accidents has an explanation: the abuses. Òscar Llatje, coordinator of Security and Mobility of Trànsit, explains with some concern that on the AP-7 there have been seven fatal outbursts so far this year, for one in all of 2019. Three of them were people who, inexplicably, were walking on the highway. The other four were drivers who got out of the car after having an accident with another vehicle. Heedless of their surroundings, they were hit by other cars. Mortality in the AP-7, in fact, has tripled, going from 4 to 12 deaths, 16% of the total. Llatje provides more figures on the AP-7 that help to understand the magnitude of the problem: “So far this year, and compared to 2019, accidents with victims on this highway have grown by 25%, while the rest of the Catalan roads have dropped by 19%”.

Less tragic roads

As regards the total number of accidents, regardless of their severity, the situation has shot on the AP-7 southwith a 60% increase (from 97 to 155) damped by the fall on the N-340, which falls 33% (from 162 to 109), which leaves a positive balance in the corridor of 1.9%, with five more claims than two years ago. The situation is different in the central section of the AP-7, where even more accidents have been recorded (from 30 to 31), but the brutal descent on the C-35 (from 51 to 17) leaves a global of -40.7%. To the north, the highway went from 30 to 38 accidents (+26.7%) and the N-II fell from 63 to 45 (-28.6%), with an overall result of -10.8%.

The parallels C-33 and C-17 have also changed their behavior. The first, where the passage of vehicles has increased by up to 50%, has gone from 20 to 24 accidents, and the second, with less traffic, has dropped from 69 to 17, almost 70%, the percentage of fall highest of all the sections studied. Finally, the AP-2 and the N-240 have a like scenario, with an increase in the main road (+75%, from four to seven) and a drop in half in the secondary road (from 22 to 11). In total, the roads analyzed registered a global drop of 19.2% in global accidents, going from 692 to 561 accidents. 40.7% occur at some point on the AP-7.

Heavy vehicles

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Trucks have also tipped onto major highways with the drop in payment barriers, but the figures are not as striking as those of the cars. Perhaps because there were already many who saw it compensated to take out their wallet in exchange for circulating through arteries much faster than the secondary network of roads. On the AP-7 there have been 27.7% more accidents with trucks involved. The impact of the passage of trucks towards fast arteries is very well reflected in the statistics of accidents with fatalities and serious injuries. The N-340, the C-35 or the N-II registered between September 2018 and June 2019 a total of six accidents of this type. Since the end of tolls, not one. “From the point of view of road safety, we are interested in them being on the highwayalthough it is true that their presence hinders circulation, but we cannot forget that they are working”, points out the person in charge of Trànsit.

The end of tolls has filled the AP-7 and this is proving positive (always within prudence) for the accident rate. The congestion, however, will not be solved by infused science and it requires dynamic measures that replace structural reforms (improvements in accesses and in connections with other highways), which must be carried out by the Government. In the return operation from this bridge the new additional lane on the AP-7 between Sant Celoni and La Roca in a southerly direction that will join that of this same motorway in Vilafranca and El Papiol and that of the C-32 from Mataró to Montgat. What is not ready yet is the crane deployment to remove damaged or damaged vehicles that complicate traffic as soon as possible. You have to put the project out to tender, and those things take time.

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