Implementing a Safe System

Safe System approach
Road safety management systems have evolved in highincome countries over the last fifty years and the challenge for low and middle-income countries will be to benefit from the lessons learned, to avoid the unnecessary and unacceptably high level of deaths and injuries experienced in high-income countries. This will require low and middle income countries to shift rapidly and directly to a Safe System approach with a results focus which aims to eliminate road deaths and serious injuries, rather than chart a fatalistic pathway that accepts these impacts as an inevitable price of economic progress. The challenge for highincome countries will be to continue to innovate on the basis of sound safety principles and go beyond what is currently known to be effective, to achieve even higher levels of safety performance.

The shift to a Safe System approach is also well attuned to the high priority global, regional and country development goals of sustainability, harmonization and inclusiveness. A Safe System is dedicated to the elimination of deaths and injuries that undermine the sustainability of road transport networks and the communities they serve. Its focus on safer and reduced speeds harmonizes with other efforts to reduce local air pollution, greenhouse gases and energy consumption. And its priority to afford protection to all road users is inclusive of the most vulnerable at-risk groups such as pedestrians, young and old, cyclists and motorcyclists. These co-benefits of shifting to a Safe System approach further strengthen the business case for its implementation.

The World Report on Traffic Injury Prevention published by WHO and the Country Guidelines for the Conduct of Road Safety Management Capacity Reviews and the Specification of Lead Agency Reforms, Investment Strategies published by the World Bank Road Safety Facility in 2009 identifies improvements in road safety management that have dramatically decreased road traffic deaths and injuries in industrialised countries which  have been active in road safety.

The Global Status Report on Road Safety provides a framework and a methodology of national and global road safety assessments for managing the key factors:  speed, drinking and driving, use of motorcycle helmets, use of seat-belts and use child restraints andinfrastructure

The Safe Systems Approach ensures that a road system is designed to accomodate and compensate for human vulnerability and frailty. This requires an understanding of the system as a whole and interaction between its elements, and the identification of priorities and potential for action to address the main risk factors.

OECD published in 2008 a report Towards Zero: Ambitious Road Safety Targets and the Safe System Approach. The report reviews the state of the art in improving road safety performance and examine the role of targets in raising the level of ambition and achieving effective implementation of road safety policies. The work aims to assist governments in raising the performance threshold by developing more systematic approaches to road safety.