Highways Engineering

Many road traffic accidents are caused, or contributed to, by the condition, design or layout of the highway.

The Department for Transport records contributory factors of traffic accidents and in up to 21% of all accidents, the highway environment surrounding the driver has been found to have contributed to the accident.

Drivers often claim that a defect with their vehicle led to the accident. Figures recognise vehicle defects as a contributory factor in just 3% of recorded accidents. This figure even includes poorly maintained brakes and tyres. Simplistically, these two figures demonstrate that the highway environment contributes up to seven times as many road accidents as vehicle defects, even when considering a lack of vehicle maintenance.

The Department for Transport data can be seen on their website by clicking here.

The highway environment can contribute to a road accident in many ways, including:

  • Poor design or layout
  • Adverse or inadequate camber
  • Inadequate skidding resistance
  • New road surfaces not treated properly
  • Poor road surface condition
  • Inadequate or incorrect kerbing
  • Proliferation, condition, siting or visibility of road signs or street furniture
  • Roadworks
  • Lack of adequate drainage
  • Worn, poorly maintained or incorrect road markings
  • Poor street lighting
  • Inadequate treatment of the road (e.g. gritting)

The highway is not simply the road surface; it also includes its immediate surroundings which together, form the 'highway'. Components of the highway include such wide and varied aspects as footways and verges, road lighting, road markings, traffic signs, drainage, trees and hedges, traffic lights, Catseyes, kerbing, crash barriers - to name but a few.

Hawkins has one of the largest Road Traffic Accident Forensic Investigation Groups in the country and is aware that the highway environment plays a part in the incident on many occasions and sometimes is the major cause. As a direct result, Hawkins has now established a Highways Engineering Team working within the Road Traffic Accident Group.


The investigation of road traffic accidents can be complex because:

  • Witness statements may conflict or be inaccurate
  • The parties involved might not wish to show themselves in a bad light
  • Accidents by their nature happen very quickly
  • Very often there is more than one contributory factor
  • There may be large amounts of compensation at stake
  • Witnesses can be influenced by the severity of the injuries
  • Obtaining the appropriate information relating to the highway is often difficult
  • Regulations and Statutes relating to Highways are widespread

There will often be more than one way to design a highway to fulfil the same function and it is important to consider why a road layout was constructed as it was.

Our investigators will provide you with a report which will, in most cases, give you a clear understanding of the contributory causes of the accident.


The investigator will use all sources of information available, particularly from the Police Report. Prompted by Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the introduction of the Police Road Death Investigation Manual now requires the Police to investigate all possible factors involved in a road death:

"There is recognition nowadays that in many circumstances the investigation of a road death is equivalent in complexity to that of homicide - indeed many road deaths should be treated by police as homicides".

The Police also attend most serious road traffic accidents and produce a report, which contains contemporaneous information such as plans and photographs. The Police Report, witness evidence and details established from a visit to the accident scene are used to reconstruct the most probable sequence of events leading to the accident.


In addition to being long-standing and qualified Highway Engineers, with substantial experience in the design of all aspects of the highway, Hawkins' Highways Engineering Team has extensive Local Authority experience and excellent knowledge of highway legislation. The highways specialists are members of recognized professional bodies relating to highways, transportation and road materials. This wealth of knowledge enables the Team to investigate 'stand alone' highway issues which might not be related to a road traffic accident, such as:

  • Accidents and injuries involving Non Motorised Users (NMUs) of the highway, such as cyclists, equestrians and pedestrians
  • 'Slips, trips and falls' on the highway
  • Disputes over damage to the highway
  • Alleged breaches of the Highways Act or Road Traffic Act
  • Accusations of inadequate or ineffective policies or procedures

The Highways Engineering Group has experience in Civil and Criminal actions, has worked for Local Authorities and Claimants, and been jointly instructed to help resolve highway disputes.

Related Services

Figures recognise vehicle defects as a contributory factor in just 3% of recorded accidents

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