Road Safety Manual
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1.4 Road safety in context

Improving global road safety is now linked with the broader vision of sustainable development and priorities addressing the rights of the child, public health, poverty reduction and social inclusion, and occupational health and safety.

Safe, clean and affordable mobility goals

Following five successive UN resolutions on ‘Improving road safety’ since 2004, the UN Rio Conference of world leaders highlighted in discussion of the Future We Want (UN, 2012) ‘the importance of the efficient movement of people and goods, and access to environmentally sound, safe and affordable transportation as a means to improve social equity, health, resilience of cities, urban-rural linkages and productivity of rural areas. In this regard, we take into account road safety as a part of our efforts to achieve sustainable development’ (UN, 2012). There are also calls for road safety to be recognised and included in the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals framework (Commission for Global Road Safety, 2013; UN Open Working Group on Sustainable Development Goals, 2014). In national transport policy, safe, clean and affordable mobility goals are set increasingly to realise the associated co-benefits of integrated initiatives (see Box 1.5).

Box 1.5: Examples of national transport policy goal statements: selected OECD countries

Australia: ‘Australia requires a safe, secure, efficient, reliable and integrated national transport system that supports and enhances our nation’s economic development and social and environmental well-being.’ (National Transport Policy, Australian Transport Council, 2009).
Canada: Transport Canada’s vision is for ‘A transportation system in Canada that is recognized worldwide as safe and secure, efficient and environmentally responsible.’ (Transport Canada, 2011).
Netherlands: ‘The Netherlands should offer everyone an efficient, safe and sustainable traffic and transportation system, whereby quality for individual users stands in a meaningful equilibrium with quality for the country as a whole.’ (National Traffic and Transport Plan, 2001–2020, Ministry of Transport, Netherlands).
New Zealand: ‘The government’s vision for transport in 2040 is that: ‘People and freight in New Zealand have access to an affordable, integrated, safe, responsive and sustainable transport system’. (New Zealand Transport Strategy, 2008, Ministry of Transport).
Norway: ‘The Government aims to provide an effective, universally accessible, safe and environmentally friendly transport system that covers the Norwegian society’s transport requirements and advances regional development.’ (National Transport Plan, 2010–2019, Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications).
Sweden: ‘The objective of transport policy is to ensure the economically efficient and sustainable provision of transport services for people and businesses throughout the country.’ Accessibility is the functional objective and health, safety and environment are the impact objectives. ‘The design, function and use of the transport system will be adapted to eliminate fatal and serious accidents. It will also contribute to the achievement of the environmental quality objectives and better health conditions.’ (Ministry of Enterprise, Energy and Communications, Stockholm, May 2009).
United States: Legislation setting out the transportation needs for the 21st Century states that: ‘among the foremost needs that the surface transportation system must meet to provide for a strong and vigorous national economy are safe, efficient, and reliable transportation’ (Safe, accountable, flexible, efficient transportation equity act: a legacy for users, Public law 109–59, 2005).
Sources: Bliss and Breen, (2011).


Despite the rapid growth in motorised traffic, the main modes of travel in LMICs are likely to remain walking, motorcycling, cycling and public transport (Kopits & Cropper, 2003). This highlights the importance of planning and providing for the safety needs of these road users (particularly for pedestrians, as the most vulnerable road users), who sustain a high proportion of road traffic injuries, as well as integrating safety into developing road networks for cars, vans, buses, and trucks.

Significant co-benefits can be achieved for the environment and public health. For example, land use and transportation planning, the provision of safer infrastructure facilities to promote increased walking and cycling, and measures to reduce vehicle speeds, will also result in less greenhouse gas emissions and local air pollution, greater energy security, and improved physical wellbeing (GRSF, 2009). Other means include reducing the volume of motor vehicle traffic by providing for public transport and pursuing liveable city policies; providing efficient networks where the shortest or quickest routes coincide with the safest routes; and encouraging road users and freight to switch from higher risk to lower risk modes of transport (Peden et al., 2004).

In some instances, road safety policy can be in conflict (or be perceived to be in conflict) with other societal needs and policies. However, safe, clean and affordable mobility goals for transport policy provide a means for seeking integrated solutions that address competing societal goals.

Public health priority

Following the publication of the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention (Peden et al., 2004), the World Health Assembly adopted resolution WHA 5.710 on road safety and health, which called on WHO member states to prioritise road safety as a public health issue and to take steps to implement measures known to be effective in reducing road traffic injuries.

Rights of the child and citizen

The widely supported Convention on the Rights of the Child, UN General Assembly Resolution 44/25 (1989), requires governmental signatories to provide a safe environment and protection from injury and violence. The Tylösand Declaration by Swedish road safety agencies and stakeholders in 2007 states that everyone has the right to use roads and streets without threat to life or health (see Box 1.6).

Box 1.6: The Tylösand Declaration of citizens’ right to road traffic safety, Sweden (2007)


1. Everyone has the right to use roads and streets without threats to life or health;
2. Everyone has the right to safe and sustainable mobility: safety and sustainability in road transport should complement each other;
3. Everyone has the right to use the road transport system without unintentionally imposing any threats to life or health on others;
4. Everyone has the right to information about safety problems and the level of safety of any component, product, action or service with the road transport system;
5. Everyone has the right to expect systematic and continu¬ous improvement in safety: any stakeholder within the road transport system has the obligation to undertake corrective actions following the detection of any safety hazard that can be reduced or removed.



Poverty reduction goals

Road safety improvements can contribute to poverty reduction goals given the scale of loss of GDP from road crashes. Crash victims typically involve the most economically active of citizens, often with adverse impacts on their dependants.

Social equity priority

The World Report (Peden et al., 2004) identified road safety as a social equity issue with vulnerable road users benefiting the least from policies designed for motorised travel, but bearing a disproportionate share of the disadvantages of motorisation in terms of injury, pollution and the separation of communities.

Occupational health and safety

Work-related road safety can contribute to substantial reductions in employers’ costs, and impact on national and organisational goals for occupational health and safety. Joint country strategies developed by road safety lead agencies and the occupational health sector are being increasingly produced. A new ISO 39001 standard on road safety management systems in organisations has been produced to provide key advice to employers towards these ends (see The Road Safety Management System).

Educational goals

While the effects of road traffic injury on educational goals have been little discussed, many thousands of children see their prospects for education diminished by injury and disability from road traffic crashes (Watkins & Sridhar, 2009).

Tourism impacts

A report by the WHO (2007) concluded that risks of road traffic injuries are appreciably higher for tourists than health risks such as epidemics (e.g. AIDS); illnesses (such as malaria and cholera); personal security risks associated with international terrorism, violence and crime; travel injury risks on modes other than road transport modes (e.g. aviation); and other personal injury risks such as drowning. Globally, international tourist road fatalities are forecast to increase three-fold to around 75,000 per annum in 2030, with implications for developing and mature economies alike (Commission for Global Road Safety, 2010).

Road traffic injury clearly has many societal impacts. The scale of the road safety challenge and the diversity of the effects of road traffic injury underline the importance of exploring synergies with other societal goals and priorities. When directed and assisted by accountable national road safety lead agencies, country road safety coordination arrangements provide a valuable platform for integrating road safety into other government policies to increase coverage and resourcing levels.

Reference sources

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