A traditional approach to road safety tends to focus on vehicles and victims. Solutions proposed for enhancing the safety of vehicles and those who become the victims of road accidents include designing roads to be safer, reducing speeds, requiring the wearing of helmets and seatbelts and implementing licensing or driver training. These are important, and there is no doubt that many of them have helped to reduce death and injury on the roads. However, road safety remains an enormous problem which grows as the number of motorised vehicles on the roads grows. It has come to be increasingly recognised as a public health issue but a lack of road safety is less acknowledged to be a social issue, with social, cultural and political causes and effects. In fact, a lack of road safety has enormous social implications and it also has a number of social causes. These must be clearly understood if effective solutions are to be implemented.
In many developing countries, there seems to be a degree of acceptance that road accidents are perhaps a necessary evil or even a precondition to development. Road users tend to follow quite a rigid hierarchical arrangement, with the pedestrian being the most vulnerable and least respected, moving up to bicycle, rickshaw, motorbike, private car, etc. Those higher up in the chain also tend to be wealthier and probably more able to assert their belief that they, as drivers, should have priority over others. This is a political and social assumption that has major implications for road safety that are rarely questioned. Often they are not even questioned by vulnerable people themselves.