Road Safety Management

In order to produce positive road safety outcomes, strong management in all aspects of road safety is required.

Systems for the management of road safety have evolved over the last few decades in developed countries. Today, the Safe System approach is seen as the most appropriate approach in guiding the management of road safety. It is recommended that low and middle-income countries adopt this approach.

The Safe System approach recognises that humans as road users are fallible and will make mistakes. There are also limits to the kinetic energy exchange which humans can tolerate (e.g. during the rapid deceleration associated with a crash) before serious injury or death occurs. A key part of the Safe System approach requires that the road system be designed to take account of these errors and vulnerabilities so that road users are able to avoid serious injury or death on the road. A Safe System approach has the following characteristics

  • It recognises that prevention efforts notwithstanding, road users will remain fallible and crashes will occur.
  • It stresses that those involved in the design of the road transport system need to accept and share responsibility for the safety of the system, and those that use the system need to accept responsibility for complying with the rules and constraints of the system.
  • It aligns safety management decisions with broader transport and planning decisions that meet wider economic, human and environmental goals.
  • It shapes interventions to meet the long term goal, rather than relying on “traditional” interventions to set the limits of any long term targets.

    This represents a fundamental shift in thinking in how we try to address road safety. For many crashes there is likely to be some form of road improvement that could be made to reduce the likelihood of a fatal or serious injury crash occurring. However, in a Safe System approach, road safety problems are typically treated by considering the interaction of several components of the transport system, rather than by implementing individual countermeasures in relative isolation. This means that the full range of solutions, infrastructure, traffic and speed management, vehicle standards and equipment and road user behaviour need to be addressed.

    Implementing the Safe System approach requires developing and strengthening a country’s institutional management capacity in order to focus on achieving results aimed at elimination of deaths and serious injuries. A targeted approach towards this ambition is recommended in the OECD report that focuses on setting and achieving ambitious road safety targets within a Safe Systems approach. This report builds on the key recommendations of the World report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention that set out the strategic initiatives necessary to improve country road safety performance. These are to

  • Identify a lead agency in government to guide the national road safety effort.
  • Assess the problem, policies and institutional settings relating to road traffic injury and the capacity for road traffic injury prevention in each country.
  • Prepare a national road safety strategy and plan of action.
  • Allocate financial and human resources to address the problem.
  • Implement specific actions to prevent road traffic crashes, minimize injuries and their consequences and evaluate the impact of these actions.
  • Support the development of national capacity and international cooperation.

    Guidelines for implementing the World Report recommendations have been developed in a report from the World Bank Global Road Safety Facility. This report discusses road safety management and the Safe Systems approach, and provides detailed guidance for the management and investment framework that is necessary to support the successful implementation of the World Report recommendations.

    The guidelines specify two key stages for implementation

    Stage 1 - conduct a country capacity review that addresses recommendations 1-4 and specifies an investment strategy and identifies Safe System implementation projects.

    Stage 2 - prepare and implement Safe System projects based on good practice solutions that address priorities, and build monitoring and evaluation procedures.

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