Road deaths and injuries are a function of the way people behave, the different types of vehicles in use and their speeds, and road design. Despite this complexity, the way in which a genuinely safe road system can be created is well understood.
Numerous publications show how death and serious injury can be prevented globally, including: Towards Zero: Ambitious Road Safety Targets and the Safe System Approach, produced by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), the multilateral development banks’ A Shared Approach to Managing Road Safety, and the United Nations’ Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020.
The following principles broadly underpin the safe system approach and inform iRAP’s approach:
Countries leading in road safety have put these principles into practice with outstanding results. As just one example, the Swedish Road Administration defined a safe road transport system as one where: the driver uses a seatbelt, does not exceed the speed limits, and is sober; the vehicle has a five-star rating by the Euro NCAP (European New Car Assessment Programme); and the road has a four-star rating by EuroRAP. Research showed this combination to be a stunning success: just 2-3% of road deaths occurred when these conditions were met, despite them coinciding with 30% of traffic flow.
Sweden then took even more progressive steps towards improving road features to harness the substantial synergies that occur when speed and forgiving infrastructure interact in a compatible way. For example, by 2020 three quarters of traffic flow with speeds over 80 km/h will be on roads with a median barrier, where the risk of death or serious injury in a head-on crash is significantly reduced.
Although the specific approach to creating a safe system might vary from country to country, the principles are universal. The moral imperative for taking this approach is compelling. So too is the economic imperative; it is estimated that a single road death costs as much as 60-80 times a country’s gross domestic product (GDP) per capita, yet the economic savings from targeted safety upgrades typically exceed the cost of their construction and maintenance. It was found in the United Kingdom that by investing less than 10% of existing road budgets, one-star and two-star roads could be eliminated in the next decade, saving 6,000 lives and generating crash-cost savings of £25 billion and £35 billion.
|Bicyclists are typically killed or seriously injured when cycling along the road, crossing the road, and at intersections|
|Pedestrians are typically killed or seriously injured when walking along or across the road|
|Vehicle occupants are typically killed or seriously injured in run-off road, head-on or intersection crashes|
|Motorcyclists are typically killed or seriously injured in run-off road, head-on or intersection crashes|
|Bicycle paths like this one in China reduce the risk that bicyclists will be struck by fast-moving cars, trucks or buses, by physically separating travel lanes. Well-designed on-road bicycle lanes can reduce bicyclist crashes by 25-40%|
|Pedestrian footpaths, like this one in the Philippines, can reduce the likelihood that people will be struck by a vehicle while walking by as much as 40-60%. ‘Raised table’ pedestrian crossings also help to reduce traffic speeds and lower the risk of injury|
|Energy-absorbing safety barriers, like this one in New Zealand, significantly reduce the risk of death or injury. Prior to being upgraded, this section of road rated two- and three-stars under KiwiRAP. Now it rates four-stars. Fatal and serious injury crashes decreased by 63%|
|Well-designed roundabouts can reduce casualty crash risk at intersections by more than 60% and have been shown to be highly cost-effective|
|Exclusive motorcycle lanes in Malaysia, among the first of their kind in the world, ensure that motorcyclists do not need to mix with heavier and often faster-moving traffic. The construction of these lanes have resulted in a 39% reduction in motorcycle crashes|
Getting the best brains to support iRAP's road infrastructure safety research.
The iRAP programme is now active in over 70 countries, with links to practitioners in each country. It is an evidence-based programme and the iRAP team is fortunate to work with some of the world's leading researchers and research agencies. This makes iRAP a stimulating and exciting place to be, but it also means that everyone in the team realises that there are a lot of infrastructure road safety questions that still need to be answered!
Working in such a large network means that research questions can be worked on, discussed and shared widely and can very quickly lead to answers being tested and used. Here, we have listed some of issues identified by road authority and research partners around the world who are implementing iRAP assessments.
iRAP does not currently have the financial resources to fund all the good ideas for work that are presented to it, it but it is often able to engage with and provide know-how to those who want to contribute to research that will contribute to the iRAP vision of a world free of high-risk roads.
Globally there is a rapid movement of populations to urban areas in low and middle income countries (LMICs) in particular. With this move comes an increasing safety problem in urban core areas, particularly in relation to the safety of pedestrians, public transport facilities, urban intersections and urban areas. Priority research activities will include:
On completion of the research all relevant findings will be incorporated into the iRAP toolkit (http://toolkit.irap.org) and the iRAP star rating and countermeasure generation modules, to ensure that the research in converted into practice immediately.
Significant new investment in roads occurs every year across the world. The safety performance of these new investments is often less than desired in particular relation to the needs of vulnerable road users. iRAP is currently working with the development banks to introduce the specification of minimum star rating standards as part of new designs. For example "...the new road shall deliver a minimum three star standard for vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, pedestrians and cyclists at the design operating speed of 30mph".
The detailed management and modelling of pavement assets is well advanced throughout the world. This includes life cycle costing, optimisation of programmes related to capacity and asset preservation and treatment selection. The iRAP model provides similar outcomes for the active management of road safety across a network. The project will:
A range of crash data related research outcomes will inform better investment and engineering decision making in low and middle income countries. Fatality data availability is limited with under-reporting common with very little information often available on serious injury data. Key issues to be explored include:
The safety of pedestrians is a critical area for improvement over the Decade of Action. The pedestrian star ratings used by iRAP provide an initial benchmark of safety performance and priority improvements that are cost effective. Priority research needs for pedestrians exist in the following areas:
Around half of road deaths are vulnerable road users. In addition to the pedestrian specific research priorities above a focussed research project on vulnerable users could consider the following issues:
The applicability and transferability of crash modification factors and related countermeasure effectiveness is important to ensure crash models reflect operating conditions in each country. The cataloguing of existing research outcomes into a global dataset will provide confidence in application of models such as iRAP and IHSDM. Key elements could include:
Many developed countries are reporting an increase in rear end related fatalities and serious injuries as higher volumes and higher speed infrastructure such as freeways become common. The research would focus on:
The critical impact of speed on safety is well understood. The safety of infrastructure cannot be understood without an appreciation of vehicle speeds and road use at the location. The research package would investigate the following issues:
In many countries, legislative barriers exist that impact the ability to implement countermeasures that are proven to be effective in other locations. Key issues to investigate include:
The relationship between crash risk and traffic volume is an essential element in the prediction of likely fatal and serious injury crash outcomes and therefore associated economic benefits of investment programmes. The relationship is expected to vary in relation to road cross-section, capacity of the road and other features. The research will consider the following:
The UN Decade of Action requires a quantum change in activity in relation to the five pillars identified in the UN Action Plan. This requires the appropriate demonstration of benefits and quantification of investment returns to ensure confident resource allocation by Government and the international community. The research will focus on:
The Road Safety Toolkit is a free resource that aims to provide simple, accessible information on best practice in relation to road safety engineering, road user safety and vehicle safety. The value of the tool will be increased with a greater number of case studies from individual countries around the world. The research will focus on:
The iRAP methodology is based on sound research and compelling evidence. Throughout the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, we will ensure iRAP is at the forefront of putting research into practice.
The iRAP methodology was derived from EuroRAP and AusRAP models by leading researchers from TRL (United Kingdom), ARRB Group (Australia), MRI Global (United States) and the world’s automobile clubs and particular assistance from the Swedish Road Administration. The model’s ongoing development and oversight is governed by a Global Technical Committee (GTC) comprised of iRAP members with significant expertise in road infrastructure safety, and representatives from iRAP Centres of Excellence.
Through application in dozens of countries and research, iRAP methodology has undergone continual review and validation. At the broadest level, the road safety improvement programmes proposed for the four initial pilot countries (and many countries since then) have provided useful and practical information for local safety engineers. This is unsurprising, given that the methodology shares its heritage with programmes that have a demonstrated record of saving lives.
As Star Ratings are often used where there is little crash data available, it is nevertheless important to understand whether they correlate with actual crashes. Studies of this topic have been conducted in Australia, Germany, Iceland, Italy, Netherlands, New Zealand, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom and the United States. In each case, a demonstrable relationship between Star Rating and crash rate was found.
In 2010, the Global Road Safety Facility sponsored a workshop to open the methodology to independent review, especially with respect to speed. Participants included representatives from the Institute of Transport Economics (Norway), the Dutch national road safety institute (SWOV) and the Korea Transport Institute (KOTI). The workshop concluded that the methodology was impressive, comprehensive and systematic, and that it provides researchers with a strong platform to guide research needs globally.
iRAP draws on decades of research and experience by dedicated road safety professionals around the world. As we move through the United Nations Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, we will also put new knowledge into practice. There is more to learn about road infrastructure risk in low-income and middle-income countries, such as finding optimal ways to help pedestrians cross busy roads.
In partnership with leading researchers and road authorities around the world, including those discussed earlier along with the Malaysian Institute of Road Safety Research (MIROS), the Mexican Institute of Transport (IMT), the Research Institute of Highway (RIOH) in China and the Transport Research Board (TRB) in the United States, iRAP will continually improve its methodology for the benefit of road safety.