Road Safety Manual
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4.8 Safe System Implementation

Progress in LMICs will depend heavily on substantial expert support to accelerate a ‘learning by doing’ approach. A key thread running throughout this manual is practical guidance concerning the implementation of the Safe System approach. A suggested path for road safety agencies in LMICs for moving from weak to stronger institutional capacity, by implementing effective practice through demonstration programmes (or projects), is outlined in Road Safety Targets, Investment Strategies, Plans and Projects. The programmes should include area-based projects involving all relevant agencies and some national level policy reviews. This approach will support the production of steady improvement in road safety results from all agencies.

Development of a more complete understanding and uptake of a Safe System approach, after adoption as official policy by a country, will take time. It will rely upon a continuous improvement process that examines and implements options, often in innovative ways, to improve performance.

While the key principles of a Safe System are well established (OECD, 2008 and 2016) and underpin the UN Global Plan for the Second Decade of Action for Road Safety (WHO, 2021), the challenge now is to translate these aspirations into practical policy implementation. This is especially important in low-and middle-income countries, where the burden of road injury is highest.

A joint International Transport Forum - World Bank Working Group on "Implementing the Safe System" has developed a theorectical framework to guide those seeking to implement the Safe System approach (ITF, 2022). The framework describes how to improve safety across each of the Safe System pillars through the various key components of a Safe System

The framework provides a mechanism to help identify the current level of Safe System progress, which can be applied to a project, region, country, or organisation, as well as to interventions and activities.. It can be tailored to the relevant stage of Safe System development (emerging, advancing, mature). The framework makes it possible to evaluate the extent to which an existing or planned road-safety project can be considered to align with the Safe System approach and where there is room for improvement.

The Safe System framework serves several possible purposes:

  1. To provide general guidance about interventions that should be considered by countries applying the Safe System approach, depending on their stage of development:
  2. To analyse the Safe System alignment of existing projects or sets of interventions to encourage improvement by evaluating lessons learned, and collecting information about possible future steps to enhance effectiveness; and
  3. To assess pilots, planned Safe System projects or sets of interventions to help improve their Safe System content, identify opportunities for improvement and provide guidance to maximise effectiveness.

The Safe System framework is structured around three dimensions:

  1. the five key components of the Safe System;
  2. the six traditional pillars of road safety; and 
  3. the three stages of development of any Safe System intervention.

The five key components build on the four fundamental principles of a Safe System by adding institutional governance as a critical enabler of a Safe System. Institutional governement is required to organise government intervention covering research, funding, legislation, regulation and licencing and reqiures mechanisms for coordinating and funding actions as well as maintaining a focus on delivering improved road safety outcomes.

The Safe System framework is based on a matrix that can be used to describe any example of a Safe System intervention based on two dimensions: key components and pillars (see Table 4.5). Within such a matrix it is possible to define the curent level of alignment to Safe System for an individual cell or any combination of cells as well as to evaluate the expected level of progress that would occur through improvments leading to better Safe System alignment. In each of the cells, improvements in safety can be made, Safe System principles can be implemented and assessed, and opportunities for improvement can be identified.

To assess progress towards a Safe System and to identify implementation gaps the framework also includes five possible stages of Safe System development (see Table 4.6) applicable to any country, region or city. At one end of the scale, an emerging system combines straightforward interventions and an initial process of co-operation and integration. At the other, a mature system combines sophisticated interventions and progress towards an ideal situation. For some countries or cities working towards Safe System implementation progress may be in the starting stage in some celss, and in the emerging or advancing stage in other cells.

At a strategic level the framework examines teh combination of key components and pillars in terms of a conceptual alignment with the Safe System. For example, speed limits that aim to prevent exposure to large forces (refer Cell 4.4 or Table 4.5) are set based on human vulnerability and supported by road design, enforcment , driver education and vehicle technologies. At an operational level the framework outlines descriptions of what road-safety situations to expect in each of the three different stages of developement of Safe System implementation. An example three-dimensional framework for Safer Speeds (refer Cell 4.4 of Table 4.5) is presented in Box 4.4.

box 4.4: example safe system framework for safe speeds to prevent injury (Cell 4.4)

The Working Group also present lessons from 17 case studies of road-safety interventions across the Safe System with reference to the Safe System framework in the Safe System Approach in Action  research report. The case studies demonstrate that there is no simple recipe for successful implementation of the safe System appraoch and requires tailor-made adjustments depending on context including consideration of the specfic socio-economic circumstance of each country, city or region.

Pathway to Safe System Implementation

Getting started

Understand what a Safe System would look like.

  • Leadership is critical. Gain commitment from heads of agencies to the adoption and implementation of the Safe System approach.
  • Adopt an aspiration for elimination of fatalities and serious injuries in the long-term (making crashes survivable, working towards zero) and identify what will be required to achieve this shift in thinking and its progressive implementation.
  • Conduct a management capacity review and identify an investment plan based on a Safe System approach.
  • Plan and design multi-sectoral Safe System demonstration projects. Focus on corridor action plans and selected national policy reviews with project management and expert assistance over some years (See Target and strategic Plans). Establish a multi-agency steering committee and a working group for the project with an agreed lead agency.
  • Establish a reliable national crash data system.

Making progress

  • Continue capacity strengthening: Focus on developing institutional arrangements and the knowledge base of agencies around Safe System approaches to network safety. Determine what knowledge is needed to analyse current system safety shortcomings including policy limitations and identify priority interventions necessary to accelerate the shift towards a Safe System.
  • For LMICs, implement the demonstration projects.
  • Monitor, analyse and evaluate to establish what has been learnt from demonstration corridor projects, plan to extend demonstration project activity across the wider network and implement higher priority policy review findings.

Consolidating activity

  • Implement extension of Safe System demonstration projects across the country, based on the Safe System principles being absorbed and adopted over time within the policies and approaches adopted by road safety agencies
  • Expand agency project oversight roles to whole of country road safety responsibilities
  • Benchmark performance against other similar countries.
  • Extend knowledge development to regional and local governments and communities.
  • Identify further enabling measures needed nationally, and further Safe System interventions to be introduced nationally, regionally or locally.
  • Make use of the ITF - World Bank Safe System Framework to assess existing and planned Safe System projects or sets of interventions to help improve their alignment with the Safe System approach and to identify opportunities for improvement.

 The following four case studies from New Zealand, Mexico, Paraguay and Slovania show how each country is improving road safety. New Zealand uses a safe systems approach with Mexico, Paraguay and Slovenia using the iRAP to assess the risk on the road network to allow for safety plan and programme development.

CASE STUDY - New Zealand: Safe System assessment framework

Road agencies in Australia and New Zealand have adopted the Safe System approach, and have been working to implement programmes consistent with achieving Safe System outcomes for more than a decade. Infrastructure needs to be planned, implemented and maintained to assist in meeting these objectives. This includes the need to assess whether infrastructure (whether planned or existing) is likely to meet Safe System objectives. Read more (PDF, 499 kb).
CASE STUDY - Mexico: Improving the safety of Mexico's Road Network
As part of one of the largest iRAP assessments in the world, over 65,000km of road have now been assessed by SCT in Mexico include before and after star ratings across the whole country. The assessment included the carrying out of video-based road surveys integrated with asset and pavement management surveys, star rating the safety of the network to assess the likelihood and severity of crashes, producing a Safer Roads Investment Plan to allocate resources on countermeasures and “performance tracking” to assess changes in the star rating performance of the roads over time. Read more (PDF, 699 kb).
CASE STUDY - Paraguay: The safety of the road network in Paraguay

Deaths and serious injuries have steadily been increasing in Paraguay, reaching more than 1,300 in year 2012. As part of the National Road Safety Plan 2008-2013, the Ministerio de Transportes y Obras Públicas (MTOP), with support from the Inter-American Development Bank, made the decision to carry out an assessment of 4,000kms of roads in order to understand the road safety situation of the national network and propose countermeasures to be implemented and improve the road safety conditions. Read more (PDF, 874 kb).
CASE STUDY - Slovenia: Safety ranking Slovenia's road network

AMZS (Slovenian motoring club) supported by Republika Slovenia Ministrstvo za Infrastrukturo in Prostor, the Slovenian Police service, DARS Povezujemo Slovenijo and Prometnotehniski Institut were committed to improving the safety of Slovenia’s road network.  A large scale project was rolled out which involved risk mapping Slovenia’s roads, carrying out video-based road surveys, star rating the safety of the network to assess the potential for the likelihood and severity of crashes Read more (PDF, 612 kb).
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