Road safety is an urgent international development priority in view of the growing humanitarian crisis of road traffic injury in low- and middle-income countries.
In support of the UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011–2020, a Global Plan has set a highly ambitious goal ‘to stabilize and then reduce forecast road deaths’ by 2020. If achieved, the estimated saving would be 5 million lives and 50 million fewer serious injuries worldwide.
International development organisations concerned with transport and health are promoting the paradigm shift to the ethical Safe System goal and strategy, which involves zero tolerance of the traditional trade-off between mobility and serious and fatal road injury.
Safe System is seen as particularly relevant for LMICs since it addresses the human vulnerabilities of all road users. It aligns with a range of international development goals and public policies for sustainable transport, occupational health and safety, child welfare, and social equity.
Road safety management capacity reviews and contributions to the Global Status Reports reveal systemic weaknesses in the road safety activity of LMICs, who need to rapidly shift from weak to stronger institutional management capacity in order to produce better results.
International development agencies emphasise that long-term governmental ownership and leadership is required. Political interest needs to be translated into ambitious long-term goals, step-wise targets, and provision of appropriate human and financial resources.
LMICs need to be supported by substantially increased investment from aid agencies, wherever appropriate, to strengthen institutions and increase knowledge creation and transfer. Guidance and tools to aid targeted investments in capacity building for Safe System projects have been produced.
Road safety professionals in HICs will need to continue to promote evidence-based approaches and, given that the ambitious Safe System goal now shapes intervention, they will need to embrace innovative approaches based on established safety principles.
The safe planning, design, operation and use of the road network is recognised as a fundamental intervention strategy and the prime focus of this manual.