Zero Road Deaths and Serious Injuries

Zero Road Deaths and Serious Injuries

Leading a Paradigm Shift to a Safe System You do not have access to this content

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03 Oct 2016
9789282108055 (PDF) ;9789282108048(print)

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This report describes a paradigm shift in road safety policy, being led by a handful of countries, according to the principles of a Safe System. A Safe System is based on the premise that road crashes are both predictable and preventable, and that it is possible to move towards zero road deaths and serious injuries. This, however, requires a fundamental rethink of the governance and implementation of road safety policy.
To stem the road death epidemic, the United Nations have set the target of halving traffic fatalities by 2020. Every year, 1.25 million people are killed in road crashes and up to 50 million are seriously injured. Road crashes kill more people than malaria or tuberculosis and are among the ten leading causes of death. Their economic cost is estimated at 2-5% of GDP in many countries. Written by a group of international road safety experts, this report provides leaders in government, administrations, business and academia with emerging best practices and the starting point to chart their own journeys towards a Safe System.

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  • Foreword

    The concept of a Safe System, in the context of road safety, originated in Sweden and the Netherlands in the 1980s and 1990s. At the time, scientists and policy makers began to question the prevailing view that the safety of road users was, in the last instance, their own responsibility and that the task of road safety policy was thus primarily to influence road users’ behaviour so they would act safely at all times. As the decades-long decreases in the number of road fatalities and severe injuries were levelling out, it became clear a predominant focus on education, information, regulation and enforcement was no longer delivering progress. A rethink was needed.

  • Executive summary

    Around 1.25 million people are killed on the world’s roads every year, according to the World Health Organization. Between 20 and 50 million people are seriously injured. Traffic deaths and injuries have devastating effects on families everywhere. They cause enormous economic losses, estimated at around 2-5% of the Gross Domestic Product of countries. Clearly, such levels of road deaths and serious injuries are unacceptable both in terms of human suffering as well as societal and economic costs and not sustainable.

  • A Safe System – Promoting a world free of road traffic fatalities

    Each year around 1.25 million people are killed and 50 million injured in road crashes worldwide. With the world’s car fleet expected to double in little more than a decade, road injury is forecast to become the seventh leading cause of death by 2030. The UN Sustainable Development Goals now commit the international community to halve deaths and injuries caused by road crashes by 2020. To achieve this very ambitious target, countries around the world need to re-appraise their road safety strategies. The Safe System offers a fresh approach. Pioneered by countries like Sweden and the Netherlands, its starting point is the ethical maxim that road deaths and serious injuries are per se unacceptable and that road users have a right to expect that they should be safe.

  • Principles and description of a Safe System

    The traditional approach to road safety accepts a trade-off between mobility and loss of life. The main reason for crashes is seen as “wrong” human behavior, and policy aims at influencing road users’ behaviour towards full compliance with rules and requirements. A Safe System recognises that humans will make mistakes, and that the human body has a limit to which it can absorb crash forces without suffering injury. It posits that safety is a shared responsibility of all actors in a traffic system, not only that of a road user. Thus, all elements of the road traffic system should come together in an integrate safety chain in which the elements will combine to prevent a crash, or at least prevent serious injury, even if one or more elements fail.

  • Leadership for a paradigm shift towards a Safe System

    A paradigm shift in the way the road safety problem is viewed and responded to requires, first and foremost, leadership to initiate a change in mind-set and to guide stakeholders on the journey towards a Safe System. It will also require a sense of urgency to drive this change and raising awareness among all concerned that a Safe System is the best approach to deliver improved road safety.

  • Safe System management and governance

    Safe System thinking must be embedded into a systematic and sustained way of working. It requires reorientation from top-down management to a bottom-up approach, with governance and management structures that focus on outcomes through setting objectives, rather than on prescribing methods. Safe System management acts as facilitator in a broad coalition of stakeholders that share responsibility for improve roads safety in a mutually reinforcing manner and a process of continuous improvement. It relies on data and factual evidence to set targets, monitor progress and adapt measures in consultation with stakeholders.

  • Safe System practices and tools

    A road crash is the result of a failure in the traffic system. A Safe System aims to proactively limit such systemic failures or keep their impact below thresholds that cause serious harm to humans where crashes do occur. Core elements of a Safe System are safe vehicles, safe roads and roadsides, safe road users, safe speeds as well as effective post-crash response. This chapter examines a range of policies, measures and tools that are available in these areas to build a Safe System and provides various case studies from pioneering countries.

  • Safe System in cities

    Cities present both a pressing challenge for sustainable mobility and a great opportunity for creating a Safe System of road traffic. Already, major world cities are becoming Safe System laboratories, testing the viability of designing, communicating, managing and living the Safe System approach in complex communities. With continuing urbanisation in high-income countries and rapid demographic growth and urbanisation in many middle- and low-income countries combined with unprecedented motorisation, there is an urgent need to establish a road safety paradigm in which pedestrians and cyclists can equitably and safely share the public space of cities with motor vehicles.

  • Starting the journey towards a Safe System

    This chapter sums up the main lessons learned from the experience of pioneering countries on how to move from conventional road safety policies to a Safe System. It argues that the ambitious improvements in fatality reduction targeted by the international community can only be achieved with such a paradigm shift, which takes as its starting point the premise that no human being should have to lose his or her life in a road crash.

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