Responsibilities of a road authority include safe road design for new roads, safety improvements of existing roads, safer outcomes from road maintenance and network operation activities. Actions need to be undertaken within the whole-of-government road safety effort. These activities need to be conducted within a Safe System framework, a transforming safety agenda that will influence all the activities of a road authority, not just those activities traditionally considered to be the functions of a road authority’s safety division. It challenges road authorities to rethink their activities. This is a major challenge for every road authority – how to build Safe System principles and elements into all of its activities.
In some jurisdictions, the road authority will be the lead road safety agency, particularly where the authority is also responsible for traffic management, driver licensing and vehicle registration. However, in many instances, the road authority will have reduced responsibilities and will not be the lead agency. In this situation it will need to rely more heavily on the cooperation of others to achieve the desired safety outcomes. In all cases, road authorities need to have a strong external focus to achieve gains in other Safe System elements that are outside their normal areas of operation. Key stakeholders include the police, vehicle safety experts in government and industry, and the community. This cooperative role requires strengthened knowledge and new skills in outreach and communication.
The focus in this chapter is on embedding the Safe System approach within the responsibilities, (planning, policies, programmes and operational activities) of the road authority in a jurisdiction, particularly the identification of necessary changes, their progressive introduction and their ongoing application.
The starting point should be mapping the alignment of existing functions and responsibilities of the road authority against the Safe System principles. This will produce an understanding of the extent of alteration required to align the activities of the road authority. It should be recognised that this adjustment will be substantial and will need to take place progressively, as understanding and experience with application of principles increases.
Effective change management strategies are supported by corporate-wide processes for input, consultation and discussion. A strategic framework with clear objectives needs to be put in place and progressively strengthened with policies and guidelines as knowledge increases. All changes will need to include a continuous improvement and feedback process to refine and identify necessary adjustment to current approaches and priorities in all areas of the authority’s activity.
The new approach will need to be fully embedded in the road network management approach of the road authority and formalisation of this positioning is recommended in time. Regular assessment of the coverage and effectiveness of this ‘embedding’ activity will be needed.
The funding challenge will be assisted by the clarity and relevance of new policies and the success of the early program delivery. Support for provincial and local governments by the national road authority will be required for their development of consistent and improved road agency practice.