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|