Skip to main content
European Commission logo
Mobility & Transport - Road Safety

Achieving results



Achieving results

Establishing safety performance targets supported by action plans that set out the specific interventions needed to achieve them is well established as international good practice [54][5][6][53][52]. However, as the OECD has noted recently, setting ambitious targets is one thing; meeting them is another. Without new effort, many OECD countries will not meet their highly ambitious targets [52].

The limits to improved road safety performance are shaped by the road safety management system operating in a country. This system determines the results being sought and produces the interventions to achieve them. The limits to a country's road safety performance are constrained by its institutional capacity to implement efficient and effective interventions, and the subsequent results may fall short of what is technically feasible with any particular set of road safety interventions [5][52].

The World Report and the follow up World Bank Transport Note focussing on implementing its recommendations highlighted the importance of addressing road safety management weaknesses and the need for effective institutional management as a pre-requisite of successful results-focused intervention. New guidelines based on good practice institutional management have been produced recently by the World Bank [5].

The shift to a safe system approach - the new performance frontier

Countries have become progressively more ambitious in terms of the results desired (see evolution of road safety management for results) culminating in ambitious safe system approaches. Today, the safe system concept represents the new performance frontier for road safety management embracing long term visions or goals to eliminate death and serious injury (as recommended by the OECD [52], challenging but achievable interim targets, exacting intervention strategies and the need for strengthened institutional management systems [5][52].

What was previously seen as radical and unachievable by many road safety practitioners and policy-makers has quickly become the benchmark and central debating point for analyses of what constitutes acceptable road safety results. The tools and accumulated practices used to support the safety performance framework for Safe System are the same as those used in the past to prepare targeted national plans. Targets are still set as milestones to be achieved on the path to the ultimate goal, but the interventions are now shaped by the level of ambition, rather than vice versa. Innovation becomes a priority to achieve results that go well beyond what is currently known to be achievable [5].


Develop a Safe System approach, essential for achieving ambitious targets

It is recommended that all countries, regardless of their level of road safety performance, move to a Safe System approach to road safety. This approach: builds on existing road safety interventions but reframes the way in which road safety is viewed and managed in the community. It addresses all elements of the road transport system in and integrated way with the aim of ensuring crash energy levels are below what would to cause fatal or serious injury. It requires acceptance of shared overall responsibilities and accountability between system designers and road users. It stimulates the development of the innovative interventions and new partnerships necessary to achieve ambitious long term targets.

Adopting a safe system approach

A Safe System approach is the only way to achieve the vision of zero road fatalities and serious injuries and requires that the road system be designed to expect and accommodate human error.

A Safe System approach has the following characteristics:

  • It recognizes 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.

The basic strategy of a Safe System approach is to ensure that in the event of a crash, the impact energies remain below the threshold likely to produce either death or serious injury. This threshold will vary from crash scenario to crash scenario, depending upon the level of protection offered to the road users involved. For example, the chances of survival for an unprotected pedestrian hit by a vehicle diminish rapidly at speeds greater than 30km/h, whereas for a properly restrained motor vehicle occupant the critical impact speed is 50km/h (for side impact crashes) and 70 km/h (for head-on crashes).

Road safety in a complex multi-sectoral context

In practice is a shared responsibility at international, national, regional, state, and local levels. Achieving road safety results is a multi-disciplinary activity which takes place in a complex multi-sectoral context. Multi-sectoral activity provides both the opportunity for a holistic system-wide approach and the possibility that road safety interests will be submerged by competing interests. It thus requires careful management and leadership [5][50]. Meaningful institutional collaboration within Government needs to take place to adopt a system-wide strategy and achieve programme integration of the development, environment, accessibility, equity and safety objectives of governments [5]. The management of shared responsibility for implementation within organizations, whether governmental or non-governmental, is also important ensure that decisions lead to the intended policy performance [30].

Leadership, ownership, accountability

Achieving road safety results requires long-term governmental ownership, leadership and political will. The first and crucial recommendation in the World Report concerned the identification of a lead agency in government to guide the national road safety effort, with the power to make decisions, control resources and coordinate the efforts of all participating sectors of government. New World Bank guidelines and good practice review indicate the importance of the lead agency/department, on a 'first amongst equals basis', orchestrating action across Government supported by effective coordination arrangements [5].