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Mobility & Transport - Road Safety

How ambitious?



How ambitious?

In good practice road safety management, 'results focus' is the overarching institutional management function [4]. It determines the country's level of ambition for road safety and takes into account the interventions and institutional arrangements which need to be put in place in order to realise it. The process involves

  • Appraising current road safety performance through high-level strategic review
  • Adopting a far-reaching road safety vision or goal for the longer term
  • Analysing what could be achieved in the shorter term and proposing targets
  • Agreeing targets across the road safety partnership and ensuring stakeholder accountability for results

All other management functions influence this activity and what can be achieved in road safety for the future such as the effectiveness of the coordination framework as a decision-making forum across government including consultation with the broader partnership; whether sustainable funding and resource allocation mechanisms are in place; the possibility of securing legislative time for interventions; the likelihood of high-level promotion; the quality of data sets for target-setting work and for subsequent monitoring and evaluation as well as ready access to research and development and knowledge transfer [4].


Appraising performance

The aim is to achieve a clear overview of country organizational needs to understand present road safety performance - what is working and where there is room for improvement - and to specify or better specify challenging but achievable road safety outcomes in the national road safety strategy. The process of appraising current road safety performance will involve high-level multi-sectoral strategic examination of a range of activity and typically involve a senior coordination group of officials from Transport, Health, Justice and Education sectors. In-house technical input from the lead agency as well outside research sector input support this activity.


Adopting an ambitious long term goal

European countries are increasingly adopting long term visions or goals for road safety e.g Vision Zero and Sustainable Safety. Such visions for a safer road traffic system where deaths and serious injuries can be substantially reduced and ultimately avoided, as sought in other areas of public safety can stimulate, guide and ensure continuity in road safety work.

Vision Zero is presented as a long-term, ideal objective for a traffic system where the amount of biomechanical energy to which people can be exposed without sustaining serious injury is the basic design parameter. As with the Sustainable Safety. Strategy being implemented in the Netherlands which has a similar approach, Parliamentary scrutiny and approval stimulated public debate and prepared the way for future successful work. Finland has recently adopted a policy based on the Vision Zero strategy. Switzerland's Via Secura theme and the Safe System concept of the Australian State of Victoria's are also derived from the Vision Zero philosophy. These long-term strategies for a safer traffic system supplemented with casualty reduction targets require fundamental and wide-scale re-working of various aspects of the design and operation of the national traffic system, to achieve better interface between human, vehicle and road environment.

Far reaching visions of total road safety promote a level of ambition that goes beyond incremental performance gains and the implicit acceptance of death and injury that will be determined by the rate of improvement shown by the best performing countries. These desired longer term results, together with shorter term targets, underpin the national road safety strategy in several EU countries and can help to create a sympathetic climate for the introduction of interventions [4]


Analysing short term potential

This entails analysis by a high-level expert group of the identification of the most important road casualty problems throughout the road traffic system on the basis of data analysis, survey and research. It involves survey of the current safety performance of different aspects of the traffic system, analysis of information on the effectiveness of different countermeasures in achieving road safety outcomes, socio-economic appraisals and the identification of useful implementation tools [28]. This analytical activity usually involves a high-level multi-sectoral group supported by advisory groups comprising in-house, external research expertise and sometimes technical experts from abroad.

Use of a sound methodology

Effective national target-setting requires a sound statistically based methodology to set credible casualty reduction targets. Several countries have used models which provide a powerful means of organizing available knowledge and thinking systematically about the future development of road transport and its safety [6][20][21][22][23]. The model used for the development of the New Zealand 2010 targets can be used to determine what target is achievable with given amounts and types of interventions and to determine the amounts and types of intervention needed to achieve a given target [20][21].

Forecasting future trends on the basis of past performanceThe starting point is analysis of past and current safety performance and on the basis of this forecasting what may be realistically achieved in future with additional efforts. The first stage of the forecasting process consists of developing statistical models that explain past changes in the casualty numbers for different user groups with reference to measures of the changing exposure to risk of these groups, including the amount of motor traffic and the average distances walked and cycled per person per year; and available information about the effectiveness at the national level of measures that have influenced casualty numbers substantially [7].

Identifying the potential for further improvementsThe forecasting process produces a wide range of results reflecting different scenarios about the future development of road transport and road safety measures. Scenario planning and computer modelling is often used to predict possible outcomes. Assessment of future long-term casualty, traffic and demographic trends is also necessary to understand underlying factors which may influence achievement of future results

Typically, working papers analysing a range of countermeasures in terms of their cost-effectiveness and public acceptability are developed to inform target-setting and strategy development [23][6]. These working papers are typically published at the same time of the road safety strategy. Information is derived from surveys, practical trials or from national or overseas experience of successful implementation effectiveness of policies. During the last forty years a substantial international knowledge base of effective interventions has grown up to inform national policymaking [15][29][28]

Developing countermeasures and action plans at national, regional and/or local levels are integral to the formulation of road safety targets. For further information on relevant considerations [6]. Proposed plans, supported by analysis to identify the best suite of measures, need to be discussed with stakeholders and divergent interests need to be considered.

Technical support for target setting in several countries

Source: Bliss and Breen eds., World Bank in preparation 2008

New Zealand- in house research support and international experts

The target-setting methodology and modelling activity underpinning the New Zealand Road Safety to 2010 strategy targets was carried out by review teams comprising Government officials in road safety and independent road safety experts from Australia and the United Kingdom with substantial experience of national and regional strategic planning in road safety. Expert analysis of benefits, costs and funding demonstrated that the overall safety target to 2010 could be reached by an appropriate mix of engineering, enforcement and education interventions. Findings were published in two Working Papers in 2000, which informed the broad stakeholder consultation which was carried out subsequently. The National Road Safety Committee considered three scenarios to achieve the goal using different approaches and mixes of interventions.

Britain- the role of the STAR group

In Britain, the safety targets were informed by modelling, forecasting activity and analysis work which was published simultaneously with the last target announcement. The Safety Targets and Accident Reduction Steering (STAR) Group was set up by the lead agency to provide technical support and advice to Minister on the setting of the 2010 targets. It comprised representation from local authorities, the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents, the Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety, TRL, the Department for Transport and its Regional Offices and individual experts. A new Road Safety Advisory Panel comprising a broad group of road safety stakeholders has since been established which will take over this function.

Netherlands- the role of the AVV - the research arm of the Ministry of Transport

Setting targets (or revising targets) is conducted by a small group of Ministry of Transport officials with preparatory work conducted by the AVV. A consultative meeting is carried out with representatives of national, regional and local authorities and, following approval targets are presented to Parliament.

Socio-economic appraisals need to be carried out to determine the best use of public resource to meet the objectives. In some countries targeted plans are also established at regional and local levels. Opportunities for road safety through integrating road safety into other areas of Government policy at national, regional and local levels need to be analysed. This involves discussion and agreement with key Government stakeholders.

Public opinion survey data informs about the acceptability of potential measures. Most road safety lead agencies put in place public opinion tracking, usually with an outside agency to monitor the public acceptability of different measures. The European SARTRE survey is a cross national study of attitudes to road safety.

Proposing targets

Road safety targets are proposed by the lead agency and/or the coordination body and are then submitted for Ministerial/Cabinet approval and Parliament. The activity is driven by the lead agency which reviews safety performance, identifies priorities, and organizes the other key government stakeholders to consider and approve proposed outcomes and outputs. Several examples of targeted road safety programmes can be found through the following links:



New Zealand

Great Britain

An OECD/Joint Research Transport Centre working group is currently working on an international review on Achieving Ambitious Road Safety Targets.


Agreeing targets and ensuring accountability

Agreeing targets

Targets need to be agreed across the road safety partnership since they specify the desired safety performance which is endorsed by governments at all levels, stakeholders and the community. Full consultation with the key governmental stakeholders, the wide range of stakeholders involved in helping to achieve road safety results and the public is essential. Good practice indicates that governmental and professional consultation on targets is usually conducted within the national road safety coordination hierarchy followed by a public consultation process. Governmental approval of the targets and national strategy is carried out within the upper tier of the multi-sectoral coordination body

Performance assessment

The establishment and use of road safety targets in OECD countries has, in general, coincided with broader organisational change in governance and public sector reform. The accountability mechanisms put in place between central government and its agencies for key responsibilities and use of public resource can also underpin the accountabilities of road safety stakeholders.

Public service targets and agreements are means by which Government demonstrates its role and accountability for road safety responsibilities. Audit and inspection bodies monitor compliance.

Public service targets and indicators in Britain and Sweden

In Britain, the Department for Transport's Public Service Agreement target is to reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured in Great Britain in road accidents by 40%, and the number of children killed or seriously injured by 50% by 2010 compared with 1994-98, tackling, at the same time, the significantly higher incidence in disadvantaged communities. The road safety strategy is assessed by the Department every 3 years. Progress can be assessed by Parliamentary Select Committee on Transport and by the Road Safety Advisory Panel. The Department's Highways Agency also has a specific Public Service Agreement target to reduce road casualties [10]. Best Value Performance Indicators are set by Central Government in order to ensure that local authorities can demonstrate they are improving services. Each year a Best Value Performance Plan needs to be submitted. By law, the delivery of road safety by a local authority has to be measured by a Best Value Performance Indicator which requires annual calculation of the number of road accident casualties per 100,000 population broken down by casualty and road user type. In addition, local authorities can set their own local performance indicators and many of these have been set relating to speed reduction, child casualties, accident involvement of young and old drivers and accidents in relation to distance travelled [26].

In Sweden, the Swedish Road Administration's responsibilities for road safety are set out every year in its Annual Report. The annual SRA target is to contribute to a reduction in the number of deaths and serious injuries and the number of deaths in road traffic is to be no more than 270 in 2007. Annual goals are specified in performance agreements. For example in 2003, the specified goal was to implement cost-effective road safety measures on the state road network so that the number of deaths is reduced. Measures that aim to improve traffic safety of children are to be prioritised. The outputs and contributions of other key stakeholders are based on formal Declarations of Intent and are published on the SRA website.

Source material; Bliss and Breen eds, World Bank 2008 (in preparation)

Agreeing road safety targets and ensuring accountability across the partnership in New Zealand

Each government agency has to develop a strategic plan outlining its goals and the means of achieving them. Since 1989, public finance law in New Zealand has required all government agencies to prepare annual corporate management information, which includes performance targets, objectives and scope of activities.

Road safety targets are agreed by governmental agencies in the national coordination body - the National Road Safety Committee. Each governmental member signs up to these targets and a Memorandum of Understanding is put in place to ensure the systematic follow through which determine the success or failure of specific actions. This activity represents the cornerstone of New Zealand's road safety performance assessment regime.

The lead agency for road safety has to submit an Annual Performance Agreement to Government covering road safety activity for the next twelve months. New Zealand Police work within a performance management framework covering both outcomes (aims and objectives) and outputs (enforcement). Outcomes include road deaths, serious injuries and crashes as well as other intermediate outcomes, relating to driver behaviour that might be influenced by enforcement, and including mean speeds and the percentage of offenders driving in excess of 10km/h above the limit. Outputs include strategic offences per hour delivered (for speed, drink driving, restraints and visible road safety) and these are intended to maximise the efficiency of enforcement.

Source material: Bliss and Breen eds, World Bank 2008(in preparation)