BEIJING - with China’s rapidly expanding road networks and a growing concern for road safety on both new and existing road projects, well-executed road safety audits can help improve road safety and reduce the number and seriousness of car accidents at a low cost to benefit ratio, says a new World Bank paper released today.
The paper titled Reducing Traffic Accidents in China: Strengthening the Use of Road Safety Audits reviews the specific role of road safety audits, a formal examination of the crash potential and safety performance of a future or existing road or traffic project.
New roads are designed according to safety standards but quickly experience crash “blackspots” due to various reasons such as speeding. Road safety audits are designed to specifically address and prevent such sudden increases in traffic accidents by providing an integrated assessment of a new or existing road project to identify problem areas and recommend improvements.
The paper presents international practices on road safety audits, ranging from audit stages, selection of projects for audit, audit process, qualifications and technical capacity required of the audit team, auditor accreditation, use of a road safety audit manual, to organizational arrangements.
The paper notes that road safety audits have benefits at the community level through reducing casualties, and at the macro-level by establishing a combination of crash reduction targets, fostering the importance of road safety engineering, raising awareness for the safety needs of all road users, and continually improving safety standards and procedures. Compared with these benefits, the cost of a safety audit is quite small and can be easily recouped.
With its first introduction in the mid-1990s, China has limited experience with road safety audits. To strengthen the use of road safety audits for reducing traffic accidents and impacts, China could take advantage of the experience from other countries with more mature audit systems.
The paper recommends five action steps:
Develop a comprehensive national audit standard;
Improve the technical guidelines for road safety audits;
Develop provincial road safety audit policies;
Provide training on road safety audits to project managers and auditors; and
Establish an accreditation system.
“With China building new roads, highways, and expressways at a pace unmatched in the world, the time is right to adopt road safety audits for the benefit of all road users,” said Fei Deng, a World Bank Senior Transport Specialist and a co-author of the paper.
The paper is the seventh of a series of papers on transport topics produced by the World Bank in Beijing.