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6.3 Assessment of a Country’s Road Safety Problems

Identifying Specific needs and Opportunities in the Management System

A regular assessment of a country’s road safety management system is appropriate to consider the achieved results, the scope and quality of applied interventions, and the efficiency of institutional management capacity. Results will reflect the interventions introduced and the effectiveness of that set of interventions, as determined by the extent of critical supporting systems in place. This will include the commitment to funding; the extent of relevant legislation; and the level of deterrence in place, including enforcement and justice system support.

Box 6.2: Good practice coordination and decision making arrangements for road safety

A coordination framework that links road safety senior managers through executive management, across relevant sectors, to a group of ministers meeting regularly – which makes operational decisions at lower levels and formulates policy recommendations for, and reports on strategy performance to ministers – reflects the necessary systematic view of road transport operation and its professional and political challenges. Provision for public inquiry at parliamentary level and broad consultation arrangements with stakeholders, including special interest groups, are recommended. Model Jurisdictions: Victoria, Japan, New Zealand, Norway, Western Australia, Sweden, The Netherlands.

Source: PIARC (2012).


Key questions that need to be considered are:

  • How is road safety management influenced by the political model and the legal system within the country, as well as historical and cultural practices?
  • Are the coordination, leadership and decision-making arrangements across government agencies adequate to achieve agreed problem definition, to develop a range of potential interventions, to gain political support for these actions in a prioritised way and to implement them successfully?
  • Is sufficient data available, e.g. accident data to detect the major crash types, major serious crash risks by type and location, and other data like e.g. helmet wearing rates?
  • Is there supportive research and development available, working with the agencies to support problem definition, targeting of issues, and evaluation of outcomes through evidence-based intervention design?
  • Are measures in place to build provincial and local government capacity to improve road safety outcomes?
  • How can knowledge and institutional management capacity be strengthened over time through ‘learning by doing’?

Identifying Existing Network-level Crash Risks

Capacity to identify network-level crash risks is critically important. Countries face a variety of road safety challenges on their networks. HICs have high light passenger vehicle motorisation rates, while LMICs usually experience high two-wheeler motorisation rates, high roadside pedestrian volumes, and high proportions of heavy vehicles (trucks and buses) in the vehicle fleet.

Issues influencing comparative crash risks on networks in different countries include:

TABLE 6.2: Issues influencing comparative risk

the levels of safe infrastructure provision

the mix of vehicle types using the network

the controls on drivers and vehicles entering and remaining on the network

the safety levels of the vehicle fleet

the levels of road user compliance with the laws and road rules (respect for the rule of law)

the emergency medical management of crash victims

Understanding the relationships between road safety performance and road safety conditions is a critical requirement for assessing underlying crash risk on the road network and in taking action to reduce the risks. Relevant aspects could be

  • abutting land use and roadside access control;
  • road and roadside safety features;
  • vehicle type, mix and safety standards;
  • travel speeds;
  • driver and rider compliance with road laws;
  • quality of road laws;
  • novice driver licensing requirements;
  • and emergency medical management in a country)

An understanding of the scale of existing problems in a country requires availability of relevant data. A lack of data makes it difficult to have a consistent evidence-based approach to identify problems and implement specific countermeasures. Furthermore, good data systems are essential to measure the outcomes of implemented interventions. The value of extensive and accurate data being available has been demonstrated in Analysis and Use of Data to Improve Safety.

Examples for the assessment of relationships between road safety performance and road safety considerations are two European studies – SUNflower and SUNflower +6 – that provided insights into this relationship in various European countries (see Box 6.2).

Box 6.3: Summary of findings on safety conditions and performance from the SUNflower +6 study (2005)

The SUNflower study covered Sweden, UK and Netherlands. For these countries, relationships for safety performance and underlying conditions were assessed, e.g.

  • Risks for pedestrians, motorcyclists, car occupants
  • Risk on motorways compared to other roads

The assessment lead to factors that may have contributed to differences between road users or road types and between the countries. Many of the report recommendations have been implemented in the three countries, with positive results achieved.

The SUNflower +6 study additionally covered the Central European Countries Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, and the South-European Countries Greece, Portugal and Spain.

Development of road safety in the three Central European countries varied considerably. Results reflected differences in national road safety management and enforcement strategies. In the South-European countries, vertical coordination of safety activities from central and regional to the local level was not well-developed. For some countries the identified changes were related to political changes (e.g. Portugal, Hungary, and the Czech Republic). Generally, an increase in motorized traffic resulted in a growing number of casualties. These growing numbers lead to increased attention on road safety, leading to new road safety policies and organizational measures and safety measures in the countries analyzed.

Source: Koornstra et. al., 2002; SWOV, 2005


Indications of the challenges faced in understanding network-level crash risks as illustrated in Figure 6.2.

Figure 6.2 Assessing risk on the network – major rural highways (Sri Lanka) - Source: Eric Howard.

This is just one example demonstrating the inherently unsafe condition of infrastructural conditions. In this case, the unrestricted access to the road from the roadside, and the overall poor level of management of road safety on this section of the road network poses risks. It is a situation which occurs in many countries across the world.

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