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Road safety

The field of road safety is concerned with reducing the numbers or the consequences of vehicle crashes, by developing and implementing management systems based in a multidisciplinary and holistic approach, with interrelated activities in a number of fields.

Table of contents
1 History
2 National programs
3 Management systems
4 Related articles
5 Semantics
6 See also
7 References
8 External link


Crashes seem as old as automobile vehicles themselves. Nicolas-Joseph Cugnot crashed his steam-powered "Fardier" against a wall in 1770. The first recorded automobile fatality was Henry Bliss on September 13, 1899 in New York, New York. The spectacular grow in motorization has result in a corresponding grow in crashes, and today it is accepted that in most OECD countries the cost of accidents amount to about two per cent of GDP, In undeveloped countries, this losses are greater than international help and loans received, fact that have prompted the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank to include activities in this field as one of his priorities. In terms of fatalities, the worldwide estimation was 800.000 per year in 1999, forecasted to grow to between 1.1 and 1.2 million in 2010 and to between 1.3 and 1.4 million by the year 2020. (Silcock, 2003)

Evolution of road safety paradigms
Decennia of dominating position 1900 - 1925/351925/35 - 1965/701965/70 - 1980/851980/85 - present
Description Control of motorised carriage Mastering traffic situations Managing traffic system Managing transport system
Main disciplines involved Law enforcement Car and road engineering, psychology Traffic engineering, traffic medicine, advanced statistics Advanced technology, systems analysis, sociology, communications
Terms used about unwanted events Collision Accident Crash, casualty Suffering, costs
Premise concerning unsafety Transitional problem, passing stage of maladjustment Individual problem, inadequate moral and skills Defective traffic system Risk exposure
Data ideals in research Basic statistics, answers on “What” Causes of accidents; “Why” Cost/benefit ratio of means “How” Multidimensional
Organisational form of safety work Separate efforts on trial and error basis Co-ordinated efforts on voluntary basis Programmed efforts, authorised politically Decentralisation, local management
Typical countermeasures Vehicle codes and inspection, school patrols The three E’s doctrine, screening of accident prone drivers Combined samples of measures for diminishing risks Networking and pricing
Effects Gradual increase in traffic risks and health risks Rapid increase of health risk with decreasing traffic risk Successive cycles of decrease of health risks and traffic risks Continuous reduction of serious road accidents
From: OECD Road Transport Research

(to be completed)

National programs

A prerequisite for progress in this area is to introduce national programs with clear and quantifiable objectives, some examples are :

(from OECD 2000)

Sweden has developed a new concept to improve road safety called "Vision Zero" Vision Zero is conceived from the ethical base that it can never be acceptable that people are killed or seriously injured when moving within the road transport system. It centres around an explicit goal, and develops into a highly pragmatic and scientifically-based strategy which challenges the traditional approach to road safety.

Vision Zero: strategic principles

While the concept envisages responsibility for safety amongs the designers and users of the system, the designer has the final responsibility for "fail-safe" measures.

Vision Zero: system designer has primary responsibility

Management systems

Modern Road Safety makes a distinction between the situation and the management systems necessary to control it, with prevention activities that largely exceeds the self-evident fields of the traditional 3’E (Engineering, Enforcement, Education) approach, first introduced in 1925. Modern Management systems have the aims of be inclusive, i.e. to include explicitly all activities part of such system.

The more extensive effort to obtain a comprehensive, holistic design of a road safety system, with the direct participation of 123 persons, representatives of different areas of activities, was done in Chile, (CONASET, 1993), utilizing the methodology for the design of social systems developed by Del Valle (1992). The result was the design of the control apparatus for this situation, called “Road Safety System”, defined by its components. An informal test of his completeness can be done simply by consider this management systems without any of his components, for example if we remove rescue we simply lose opportunities to save human life coming from activities in this area. It can be used as a outline to assess the completeness of national road safety programs.





Road Safety Management System
A Drivers, Training & Licensing
A-1 Training of professional drivers
A-2 Training of car drivers
A-3 Driver’s testing
A-4 Training of driving instructors
A-5 Licensing of instructors
A-6 Licensing of practical examiners
A-7 Driving schools supervision
A-8 Permanent grading of drivers
E Enforcement
E-1 Drivers enforcement
E-2 Technical conditions of vehicles
E-3 Technical conditions of roads
E-4 Inspection of transport services
E-5 Pedestrian enforcement
B Management Of Vehicle Quality
B-1 Technical specifications
B-2 Safety equipment
B-3 New vehicle’s certification
B-4 Technical inspection
B-5 Supervision of vehicle inspection shops
B-6 Supervision of maintenance shops
B-7 Mechanics Training
F Judicial Action
F-1 Prosecution of infractions
F-2 Efficient infraction systems
F-3 Law modification
F-4 Accident investigation
F-5 Civil responsibility of the state
C Management Of Roads And Public Space
C1 Traffic management
C2 Signs & markings
C3 Safety audit
C4 Black spots
C5 Maintenance
C6 Road safety elements
C7 Rest areas for drivers and bus stops
C8 Pedestrian facilities
C9 Bicycle facilities
C10 Land use planning
G Accident Control And Insurance
G1 Comprehensive rescue system
G2 Comprehensive rehabilitation system
G3 Insurance coverage
D Management Of Transport Services
D1 Remuneration systems
D2 Work conditions
D3 Permanent grading of personnel
D4 Dangerous loads and stowing
D5 School children’s transport
H Research & Information
H1 Integrated information systems
H2 Drivers and infractions register
H3 Vehicles register
H4 Accident register
H5 Preventive indicators register
H6 Register of instructors and examiners
H7 Accidents studies
H8 Users information
(Not occupied) I Education And Communications
I1 Curricula
I2 Teachers training
I3 Didactical materiel
I4 Students protection
I5 Campaigns

Related articles


The field of Road safety is handicapped by the terminology. Words have power to them that conveys impressions as well as meanings, phenomena that in this case results in sub-optimal approaches to prevention, as follows: The name “Road safety” have convey that in this field the activities needs to concentrate on items that properly belong to roads and, by extension, to the roads authorities, keeping a reduced scope of activities in a number of different areas, in spite of their potentially significant contributions. For example, in the U.K., Burrough, (1991) indicates that only one-third of the target reduction will be delivered by road safety engineering measures while Koornstra ( 2002) indicates “The contribution of local road engineering to the fatality reductions between 1980 and 2000 are estimated to be 4% for Sweden, 10% for Britain, and 5% for the Netherlands”. Whereas TEC (2003), quotes a research from the imperial college, London that indicates than the progress in medical technology and care made a significant contribution to the 45% fall of fatalities during the last 20 years, and account for 700 lives saved annually, and further puts forward that the lack of consideration of the benefits coming from the medical area, suggests that road safety is probably less effective that thought. It is remarkable that implicitly the author of the research doesn’t consider medicals activities as a component of a road safety management system.

It reflects confusion between the space where this phenomenon occurs (mainly roads) and the design of the Management systems to control it, in what “Roads” is only a 11% of the activities(one area out of nine in previus table).

the use of the word “accident” with his connotations of it being and unavoidable event, weaken the resolve to intervene in order to reduce crashes and his harm. Evans (1991) argues that the word “crash” indicates in a simple factual way what is observed, while “Accident” seems to suggest in addition a general explanation of why it occurred.

Moder Road safety recognize that crashes, and his consequences, are multifactor events, Ogden (1996) indicates: “An approach based in notions of cause and blame is simplistic in the extreme”. In short, crashes have factors not causes .

Old approaches emphasize the concept of problem-solving in Road safety, but it is more correct to recognize that Road safety activities doesn’t solve problems. For instance, when a safer road design is implemented, hopefully the number of crashes, or their seriousness, will go down, but they will not disappear. It is more correct to see crashes as an area where the implementation of correct policies, programs and measures will reduce his numbers or consequences, but they will no be ´´solved´´.

This realization is important, because it changes the focus from a problem that will go away if we devote enough resources to it, to a situation requiring on-going management. This management in turn requires the development of scientifically-based techniques, witch will enable us to predict with confidence that safety resources are well-spent and likely to be effective.

See also


Burrough P. Procedure for the Road Safety Audit of Truck Roads Schemes. 10p. (UK Department of Transportation, London)

CONASET 1993, Política Nacional de Seguridad de Tránsito. Comisión Nacional de Seguridad de Tránsito, Chile 1993.

Del Valle, Alfredo, 1992. Innovative planning for development: An action-oriented approach. University of Pennsylvania, 1992.

Evans, L. (1991) Older drivers risks to themselves and to other road users. Transportation Research Record 1325, 34-41. Transportation Research Board, Washington, D.C.

Koornstra, 2002. SUNflower: A comparative study of the development of road safety in Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the Netherlands Matthijs Koornstra (SWOV), David Lynam (TRL), Göran Nilsson (VTI), Piet Noordzij (SWOV), Hans-Erik Pettersson (VTI), Fred Wegman (SWOV), and Peter Wouters (SWOV). SWOV, 2002. " class="external">

Nader, Ralph, Unsafe at any speed; the designed-in dangers of the American automobile

Ogden, K. W., 1996 SAFER ROADS, A guide to road safety engineering. Ashgate Publishing Limited.

OECD Road Transport Research: Outlook 2000. CHAPTER V: ROAD SAFETY, (1997 )Table V.1 Page. 17 " class="external">

OECD Economic Evaluation of Raod Safety Measures (2000)

Ogden, K. W., 1996 SAFER ROADS, A guide to road safety engineering. Ashgate Publishing Limited.

Silcock, David. Preventing death and injury on the world’s roads. Transport Reviews, Volume 23 Number 3, July-September 2003.

TEC 2003. Traffic Engineering & Control June 2003, page 200. Hemming Group.

(to be completed)

External link