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6.4 Setting Targets

Target-setting Approaches

Target-setting can be based on the estimated outcomes of agreed action plans. Alternatively (and most commonly) targets can simply be aspirational in nature. Establishing a road safety target is a major opportunity to involve and inform the community about the road safety risks which exist in the community, the measures available to reduce the risks and to actively and openly seek the support for improved performance. There are two possibilities for target-setting – a top down declaration or a bottom up approach. A mix of these approaches is possible as well.

Top down target-setting, such as applying the Decade of Action 50% fatality reduction target for the period from 2011 to 2020 (see Typical Numerical Targets Adopted below), is much more likely to be applied in LMICs, as there is often little other evidence-based information on which to start their road safety journey. However, this aspirational approach can often lead to disappointing short-term and medium-term results.

Bottom-up target setting is based upon a negotiated set of strategic actions with a calculated (estimated) impact on fatalities and (serious) injuries. Prerequisite for this approach is good crash data, an understanding of the safety issues, knowledge of potential solutions and adequate resources. Thus targets that are more specific can be developed. Before target setting linkages between the administrative and the political level are often useful for discussion and resolution of potential implementation issues (often beyond transport impacts) that could otherwise block initiatives.

Whether the top down or bottom up approach is used to produce a target, this knowledge and experience will back strategy and action plan development and implementation. Either approach is capable of supporting improved road safety performance. However, until sufficient capacity to manage road safety is in place in a country, it is unlikely that a bottom up approach will be feasible. For this reason, Table 6.1 indicates that for the ‘establishment’ and early ‘growth’ investment phases a top down approach to target setting is likely to be the only feasible option for LMICs.

Table 6.3: Feasible target setting options

Some issues are relevant for target setting in most cases:

  • Political support is essential; politicians need to be adequately supported to be prepared to provide leadership in implementing beneficial road safety change
  • Political commitment to regulation and legislation is important
  • Adequate funding is necessary, with a long-term vision; economic costs of injury prevention strategies can be set against government savings in terms of reduced levels of health and welfare expenditure. This is a particularly important advocacy tool for use with finance ministries, which in many countries play a decisive role in determining overall government expenditure priorities
  • Wherever possible ‘early wins’ should be identified and used to support the overall strategy; This may involve setting targets or adopting measures that are less demanding in the early phase of implementation, but which will result in encouragement to move further at a later stage.
  • Dissemination of successes helps to gain confidence in the strategy and will build further support within the government

While LMICs could usefully base any short-term target they adopt on the five to ten year targets currently being adopted by good practice countries, there are major shortcomings in doing so:

  • In many LMICs, fatalities and serious injuries are continuing to increase as motorisation growth continues.
  • LMICs usually do not have the building blocks in place in their investment establishment phase to take the necessary action to achieve change which is being proposed in the HICs, who are mostly in the growth, or even consolidation, phases.

Regional/state and local plans and targets should reflect the adopted national approach, with variations for local circumstance and intent. In this way, a more consistent understanding by the community, road safety practitioners, and politicians at various levels of government can be established. However, target-setting at the local level (as distinct from the regional/state level) is likely to be problematic as the data, resources and level of expertise are generally not readily available. Therefore, national or state targets are often adopted, that is why national plans should provide sufficient flexibility for local preferences and priorities to be identified and expressed in local plans.

Case Studies – Target-setting

Contained below are a number of case studies on target setting:

CASE STUDY - Denmark: Road Safety Commission National Action Plan

The need to reduce fatal and injury crashes in Denmark, has led to the development of a national action plan.  Every Accident is one too many - a shared responsibility is the official name for the Danish Road Safety Commission National Action Plan 2013-2020. The number of road users killed or injured on Danish roads has halved since 2001. A very important player is the Danish Road Safety commission who sets ambitious road safety targets on a regular basis. The targets are then used and adopted by relevant stakeholders involved making an effort and taking responsibility for implementing the objectives to reach the target in the Action Plan. The stakeholders need to be supported by political commitment and get necessary earmarked funding for road safety to reach the target. Read More (PDF, 206 kb)
CASE STUDY - Czech Republic: Identification of hazardous road locations

On each decision-making level a road safety management system should be established and operated. Such system starts with identification of hazardous road locations, followed by their analysis, priority setting, proposal and application of countermeasures, and evaluation of effectiveness. The national research project “IDEKO” was undertaken by CDV – Transport Research Centre. Its objective was to develop methods and tools for identification and treatment of hazardous road locations. Read More (PDF, 141 kb)
CASE STUDY - England: Three star roads by 2020
Highways England and the Department for Transport identified the need to reduce road fatalities and serious injuries across their road network. In 2015, Highways England set a target to achieve 90% of travel on 3-star or better roads across the strategic road network by 2020. In 2016 the Department for Transport launched an innovative local roads fund that targets the highest risk 50 roads across the country as published by the Road Safety Foundation on an annual basis. 
Read More (PDF, 179 kb)
CASE STUDY - El Salvador: Coastal highway expansion project

The Coastal Highway Expansion Project in El Salvador sought to relieve congestion at the most-trafficked segment of El Salvador’s coastal highway (CA-2). The CA-2 is one of the two most important logistical corridors in the country and connects El Salvador’s major logistical nodes, including its two sea ports and the country’s only international airport. The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) is working in partnership with the Government of El Salvador to deliver the US$101.6 million Coastal Highway Expansion Project. The work is part of MCC’s US$365.2 million El Salvador Investment Compact with the Government of El Salvador. As part of the project, the MCC is implementing road safety capacity building and Star Rating targets for the project building on similar success in the Philippines and Moldova. Read More (PDF, 228 kb)

A bottom up approach to interim target-setting was followed in the state of Western Australia

CASE STUDY - Western Australia: A bottom up approach to target setting

Western Australian asserts that viewing safety from a long term vision to prevent death and serious injury will result in fundamentally safe road designs. The state of Western Australia (WA), Australia, developed a Safe System based road safety strategy for the period 2008 to 2020. A mathematical model was developed to provide the projected benefits of implementation of a combination of best practice Safe System countermeasures. Various options and combinations of benefits derived for a range of policy and funding choices were provided to the public through a comprehensive public consultation programme as the strategy was developed. Read More (PDF, 401 kb)

Top down or aspirational target-setting is the most widely used method – and it is the only feasible approach which can be used in the establishment phase. It can also be used effectively for the growth and consolidation phases. For example, Sweden operates a mix of top down and bottom up approaches to interim road safety target-setting.

CASE STUDY - Sweden: A mix of top down and bottom up approaches

In 2012, Sweden conducted a review of its 2010 to 2020 strategy and its (then) current interim targets and performance indicators to ensure that the interim targets for road safety remained challenging and realistic. Reductions in fatalities in the three previous years (to 2012) had exceeded earlier predicted outcomes and progress towards 2020 targets. Agencies meet six times a year to monitor road safety performance against agreed objectives and targets to 2020, share knowledge and coordinate efforts. The then current goal for road safety specified an interim target for a 50% reduction in fatalities and a 25% reduction in the number of serious injuries between 2007 and 2020. Measures to improve road safety for children were to be given special priority. Read More (PDF, 507 kb)

Typical Numerical Targets Adopted – Examples

Road safety targets need to be quantitative and measurable so that the level of aspiration is clear, the extent to which the target has been achieved can be determined, and if it has not been achieved, then the extent to which the result is short of the target can be measured.

Quantified road safety targets have been set in a number of regions (see Key Developments in Road Safety,) and countries in recent decades, including Finland, France, The Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, Ireland and the United States.

Example Indonesia: targets and policy actions expressed in the National Road Safety Master Plan 2011-2035 (Republic of Indonesia) are:

  • 50% reduction of fatalities per population by 2020
  • 80% reduction in the fatality rate per population by 2035
Example Ireland: Ireland has achieved substantial fatality reductions in recent years to be among the best performing EU countries. The strategy adopted for the period 2013 to 2020 has the following targets (Road Safety Authority, 2013):
  • 24% reduction in fatalities
  • 40% reduction in serious injuries over the life of the strategy
Setting Targets for Selected Road User Groups/Risks

In addition to final outcome targets for overall fatalities and serious injuries being defined in a strategy, outcome targets can be set for different at-risk road user groups and for various risk categories under the Safe System pillars.

For example, the current New Zealand Safer Journeys 2010–2020 Strategy (Ministry of Transport, 2010) targets a 40% reduction in the fatality rate of young people and a 20% reduction in fatalities resulting from crashes involving drug or alcohol impaired drivers, as shown in Table 6.2.

Table 6.4: New Zealand’s Safer Journeys 2010-20 Strategy
Target focusTarget reduction Target focusTarget reduction

Increase the safety of young drivers

Reduce the road fatality rate of young people from 21 per 100 000 population to a rate similar to that of young Australians of 13 per 100 000

Achieve safer walking and cycling

Achieve a reduction in the crash risk for pedestrians and particularly cyclists, while at the same time encouraging an increase in use of these modes through safer road infrastructure

Reduce alcohol/drug impaired driving

Reduce the level of fatalities caused by drink and/or drugged driving, currently 28 deaths per one million population, to a rate similar to that in Australia of 22 deaths per one million population

Improve the safety of heavy vehicles

Reduce the number of serious crashes involving heavy vehicles

Achieve safer roads and roadsides

Significantly reduce the crash risk on New Zealand’s high-risk routes

Reduce the impact of fatigue and address distraction

Make management of driver distraction and fatigue a habitual part of what it is to be a safe and competent driver

Achieve safer speeds

Significantly reduce the impact of speed on crashes by reducing the number of crashes attributed to speeding and driving too fast for the conditions

Reduce the impact of high risk drivers

Reduce the number of repeat alcohol and speed offenders and incidents of illegal street racing

Increase the safety of motorcycling

Reduce the road fatality rate of motorcycle and moped riders from 12 per 100 000 population to a rate similar to that of the best performing Australian state, Victoria, which is 8 per 100 000

Increase the level of restraint use

Achieve a correct use and fitting rate of 90% for child restraints and make the use of booster seats the norm for children aged 5 to 10

Improve the safety of the light vehicle fleet

Have more new vehicles enter the country with the latest safety features. The average age of the New Zealand light vehicle fleet will also be reduced from over 12 years old to a level similar to that of Australia, which is 10 years

Increase the safety of older New Zealanders

Reduce the road fatality rate of older New Zealanders from 15 per 100 000 population to a rate similar to that of older Australians of 11 per 100 000


Final outcome, intermediate outcome or output targets can also be devised at an organisational (road safety agency) level, compared to an overall target for final outcomes across the country – which are to be achieved as a consequence of all agency contributions.

It is most useful for all organisations to have their own strategic plan, actions and targets, based on the jurisdiction’s overall strategy. The agency strategy should indicate, in as measurable a manner as possible, how and what they intend to achieve with their own activities to meet their obligations as part of the overall country target.


Reference sources

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