Safe System Approach

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The World Health Organization (WHO) and the World Bank jointly issued the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention on World Health Day in 2004, dedicated by WHO to the improvement of global road safety. This report signaled the growing global concern on the scale of health losses associated with escalating motorization and a recognition that urgent measures needed to be taken to sustainably reduce the economic and social costs. Implementing the report’s recommendations is a key priority for low and middle income countries.

The World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention advocates a Safe Systems approach to road safety and specifies a management and investment framework to support the successful implementation of the report’s recommendations.


The findings of the report identified six overarching recommendations that set out the strategic initiatives necessary to improve a country’s road safety performance, viz:

  1. Identify a national lead agency in government to coordinate and guide the national road safety effort.
  2. Assess the problem, policies and institutional settings relating to road traffic injury and the capacity for road traffic injury prevention in each country.
  3. Prepare a national road safety strategy and a plan of action
  4. Allocate financial and human resources to address the problem
  5. Implement specific actions to prevent road traffic crashes, minimise injuries and other consequences and evaluate the impact of these actions.
  6. Support the development of national capacity and international cooperation

These guidelines provide a pragmatic approach designed to overcome country capacity barriers and achieve sustainable results.

Implementation at the country level requires an integrated framework that treats the World Report recommendations as a totality and ensures that institutional strengthening initiatives are properly sequenced and adjusted to the learning capacity of targeted country.




Safe Systems Approach

A Safe Systems approach is focused on the elimination of deaths and injuries that undermine the sustainability of road transport networks and the communities they serve.

This approach also recognizes that human beings as road users are fallible and will make mistakes. A key part of the Safe System approach requires that the road system be designed to take into account of these errors and vulnerabilities so that road users are able to avoid serious injury or death on the road.

A Safe System approach has the following characteristics:

  1. It recognises that prevention efforts notwithstanding, road users will remain fallible and crashes will occur.
  2. It stresses that those involved in the design of the road transport system need to accept and share responsibility for the safety of the system, and those that use the system need to accept responsibility for complying with the rules and constraints of the system.
  3. It aligns safety management decisions with broader transport and planning decisions that meet wider economic, human and environmental goals.
  4. It shapes interventions to meet the long term goal, rather than relying on “traditional” interventions to set the limits of any long term targets.

The Safe Systems Approach represents a fundamental shift in thinking in addressing road safety issues. In a Safe System Approach, road safety problems are typically treated by considering the interaction of several components of the transport system, rather than by implementing individual countermeasures in relative isolation. This means that the full range of solutions, infrastructure, traffic and speed management, vehicle standards and equipment and road user behaviour need to be addressed together.





The reduction deaths and injuries will be achieved through methodical implementation of five modules approach.



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