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Road Safety
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Road Safety

Road Crash Problem Driver Training and Testing
Economic Perspective on Traffic Safety Traffic Law and Enforcement
Developing a Road Safety Plan Vehicle Safety Standards
Institutional Responsibility of Road Safety Emergency Medical Services
Monitoring and Evaluation Road Safety Research
Data Systems and Analysis The Role of NGOs
Financing Road Safety Sample Terms of Reference
Designing Roads to Improve Road Safety Bibliography
Road Safety Audits Link to Construction Safety Web page
Children's Traffic Education Link to Global Road Safety Partnership
Publicity Programs Link to Global Road Safety Facility

This topic focuses on road safety. The knowledge base covers institutional responsibility of road safety, the development of a road safety action plan, raising awareness and understanding of road safety problems, road crash data systems, road safety education and training, traffic safety legislation, enforcement of traffic laws, and monitoring and evaluation of the effectiveness of road safety activities. It also includes examples of Terms of Reference.

Key Issues

The following list focuses on the key issues that you need to know about ensuring greater safety in transport and minimising adverse effects of transport on health.

  1. Road Crash Problem

    Every year more than 1.17 million people die in road crashes around the world. The majority of these deaths, about 70 percent occur in developing countries. Sixty-five percent of deaths involve pedestrians and 35 percent of pedestrian deaths are children. Over 10 million are crippled or injured each year. It has been estimated that at least 6 million more will die and 60 million will be injured during the next 10 years in developing countries unless urgent action is taken.

    The majority of road crash victims (injuries and fatalities) in developing countries are not the motorised vehicle occupants, but pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists and non-motorised vehicles (NMV) occupants.

    The Global Burden of Disease study undertaken by the World Health Organisation (WHO), Harvard University and the World Bank showed that in 1990, traffic crashes were assessed to be the world's ninth most important health problem. The study forecasts that by the year 2020 road crashes would move up to third place in the table of leading causes of death and disability facing the world community.

    In order to appreciate the scale of the problem, it is common practice to relate the number of crashes, collisions and casualties to demographic and other information and to compare this relationship between countries. The most meaningful statistic for international comparison is the crash rate (in units of deaths, casualties or crashes per million vehicle kilometres). Adequate information on vehicle usage is not readily available for many countries. Hence it is usual to compare the number of fatalities per 10,000 vehicles (MS-Excel file). Another useful method of comparison is the fatality risk per 100,000 population, which is generally used by other medical sectors.

  2. Economic Perspective on Traffic Safety

    Road crashes cost approximately 1 to 3 percent of a country's annual Gross National Product (GNP). These are resources that no country can afford to lose, especially those with developing economies. It is estimated that developing countries currently lose in the region of $100 billion every year. This is almost twice as much as the total development assistance received worldwide by the developing countries. These losses undoubtedly inhibit the economic and social development of developing countries.

    An estimate of the total national cost of road accidents will help government's to realise the heavy economic losses being incurred annually as described in the "gross output" method of accident costing and socio-economic aspects of road accidents in developing countries. Governments must try to reduce these losses by providing road safety improvements and should see expenditure on road safety as an investment and not as a cost.

  3. Developing a Road Safety Plan

    A national medium or long term Road Safety Plan is a prerequisite for achieving sustainable improvements in road safety. The plan should set measurable long term and mid-term road safety targets, build capacity of local institutions, and provide alternative sources of financing for road safety measures. An example of a very successful road safety action plan in Fiji and information on the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN ESCAP) Guidelines on Road Safety Action Plans.

    Safety intervention programmes on a pilot or demonstration basis are quite effective as learning curves and lessons can be quickly realised.

  4. Institutional Responsibility of Road Safety

    Improving road safety requires the participation of many different organisations and sectors. No one sector working alone can effectively reduce the number of road casualties.

    Either a lead Ministry or a National Road Safety Council (NRSC) or Commission should head the concerted effort. Coordination is best done by a multidisciplinary NRSC supported by a permanent Secretariat of road safety specialists, led by a senior government official or a high-calibre Executive Director.

  5. Monitoring and Evaluation

    A simple but effective monitoring and evaluation system is required to track progress of road safety activities and to estimate the safety impact. For action plans in developing countries, initial focus is often on institutional strengthening and capacity building rather than just on reducing of casualties in numeric terms. Monitoring and evaluation systems established as part of implementing action plans and safety initiatives must therefore, where appropriate, be able to indicate progress towards achievement of institutional impact and developmental objectives.

  6. Data Systems and Analysis

    Data is the cornerstone of all road safety activity and is essential for the diagnosis of the road crash problem and for monitoring road safety efforts. It is important to identify what categories of road users are involved in crashes, what manoeuvres and behaviour patterns lead to crashes and under what conditions crashes occur, in order to focus on safety activities.

    Essential components of a crash/casualty data system are a standardised report form and a means of storing and analysing the data. The UK Transport Research Laboratory has developed a Microcomputer Accident Analysis Package (MAAP) to enable users to obtain good data for diagnosis, planning, evaluation and research purposes and this is in use around the world. Technical Research Centre of Finland (VTT) has developed a Tool for Estimation of Traffic Safety Effects of Road Improvements (TARVA). (The initial screen for this link is in Finnish with underlying links in English.) The method uses road, traffic and crash information for estimation of road safety in terms of crash reduction and avoided fatalities.

  7. Financing Road Safety

    A sustainable funding source is required for the implementation of road safety measures. Two sources for financing road safety which are becoming more popular are road safety levies on insurance premiums, thereby extending the focus from compensation to prevention, and road funds which are usually based on fuel levies. These levies may be dedicated to the improvement and the maintenance of a safe and cost effective road network. Some countries have been particularly successful in securing funding for road safety activities, for example Fiji and Australia. Read more on the financing of road safety actions.

  8. Designing Roads to Improve Road Safety (Safety Engineering)

    The introduction of self enforcing techniques in road designs is likely to have much better short term results than improving vehicle standards and driver testing requirements. Many developing countries have either just adopted road standards from developed countries or modified such standards without fully evaluating the consequences. The traffic mix and road usage in developing countries is very different from that in developed countries. Road crashes can be prevented by better planning and more safety conscious design of the road network. Systematic identification and treatment of hazardous locations can improve road safety substantially. The remedial measures are usually low cost and countries with limited resources should initially consider such schemes.

  9. Road Safety Audits

    Road safety audit is the systematic checking of the safety aspects of new highway and traffic management schemes, including modifications to existing layouts. The main aim is to design out safety problems from the beginning and to reduce future problems. Safety audits should be included during the design, construction and maintenance phases of road projects. In many developing countries safety devices are included in the designs, but are simply not constructed on the ground. Frequently, road maintenance is limited to fixing potholes and cleaning drainage facilities, without replacing missing traffic signs, guard-rails, road markings and other safety features essential to create a safe road network. The Institution of Highways and Transportation in the UK produce Guidelines for the Safety Audit of Highways. More information, including ordering details are available from
    The Institution of Highways and Transportation.

    The AA document "What goes wrong in highway design and how to put it right: common criticisms and advice from safety auditors" includes useful examples for pedestrian, cyclist and motorcyclist safety provision.

  10. Children's Traffic Education

    Teaching safety skills to children can provide lifelong benefits to society, but should be seen as a long term intervention strategy. Experience in many countries has shown that reliance on individuals or organisations visiting schools to give talks on road safety are not effective on their own. Children may remember the messages in the short term, but effective and sustainable development of positive attitudes towards road safety are best achieved by inclusion in the core curriculum, either as a compulsory subject in its own right or as a cross-curricular theme.

    It is also essential that education inputs are incremental (building on previous skills) and linked to the child's physical and psychological abilities.

    Training is best done in schools by professional teachers who have themselves been trained in the safety issues relevant to children.

  11. Publicity Programs

    Road user education and awareness raising is an important part of any road safety strategy. To be effective such activity must be based on analysis of data and should be designed and monitored in a systematic way to ensure success.

  12. Driver Training and Testing

    With road user error contributing to the vast majority of road crashes, the development of safe drivers, skilled in defensive driving techniques, should be the primary objective of any road safety program. Driving examiners in developing countries are rarely given special training and driving tests an inadequate test of ability to drive safely in traffic on real roads.

  13. Traffic Law and Enforcement

    In most developing countries the Traffic Police are grossly under-resourced and under-trained to deal effectively with road safety violations. Effective traffic law enforcement can play an important role in reducing traffic crashes.

  14. Vehicle Safety Standards

    Improvements in vehicle design, occupant protection and vehicle maintenance have made a significant contribution to crash reduction in industrialised countries. Occupants can be protected by safety features such as seat belts, headrests, air bags, special seats for children. Safety related components should be properly maintained. This can be achieved by periodic vehicle inspections combined with frequent random checking of vehicles on the road. Overloading of heavy goods vehicles is also a serious safety hazard for all road users.

  15. Emergency Medical Services

    Timely and proper treatment of road casualties is essential for reducing the severity of injury to crash victims. Driver education on first aid procedures and correct transportation of crash victims is important. A single emergency telephone number (for example, "911" is used in USA) can facilitate the simultaneous alerting of police, ambulance and other rescue services and help to reduce response times (depending on the availability of road-side telephones).

  16. Road Safety Research

    Research and Development is an important part of safety work and should be incorporated into road safety programs. Road safety research aims to improve knowledge about factors contributing to road crashes, effects of different countermeasures, and development of new and more effective safety measures. It forms the framework of knowledge against which better policy and resource allocation decisions can be made to ensure most effective use of available resources.

  17. The Role of NGOs

    Road safety cannot be the responsibility of government alone. The commercial sector, service organisations and non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) play an important role in increasing road safety awareness. NGOs have an important input at grass roots level.

Sample Terms of Reference

Examples of Terms of Reference for institutional development of national level agencies to lead and coordinate road safety activities, developing systems for crash data collection and analysis, establishing a long term road safety plan, setting measurable long term and mid-term road safety targets, measuring impact of road safety measures, monitoring and enforcement of safety plans, and procedures for carrying out formal road safety audits.


Publications available on-line at this Web site and other World Bank Web sites

Publications Available Through Regular Library Services

  • UK Department of Transportation. 1990. Standards for Road Safety Audits HD 19/90.
  • UK Department of Transportation. 1990. Advice Note for Road Safety Audits HA 19/90.
  • TRL, Ross Silcock, ODA. 1991. Towards Safer Roads in Developing Countries - A Guide for Planners and Engineers.
  • Ross Silcock, TRL, Asian Development Bank (ADB). 1997. Road Safety Guidelines for Asia Pacific Region.
  • Ross Silcock, TRL, Asian Development Bank (ADB). 1997. Vulnerable Road Users in Asia Pacific Region.
  • Institution of Highways & Transportation (IHT) UK. 1996. Guidelines for the Safety Audit of Highways.
  • Institute of Transportation Engineers, Australia. 1991. Traffic Calming.
  • Department of Transport, UK. 1990. Children & Roads: A Safer Way.
  • Institution of Highways & Transportation (IHT) UK. 1990. Urban Safety Management.
  • RTA New South Wales, Australia. 1992. Road Safety 2000 Strategic Plan for Road Safety.
  • Institution of Highways & Transportation (IHT) UK. 1990. Crash Reduction and Prevention.
  • TRANSIT New Zealand. 1991. Guidelines for Planning for Road Safety.
  • Transport Research Laboratory, UK. 1995. Costing Accidents in Developing Countries, Overseas Road Note 10.
  • Institute of Transportation Engineers, USA. 1992. Traffic Engineering Handbook.
  • Institution of Highways & Transportation and Department of Transport, UK. 1987. Roads and Traffic in Urban Area.
  • Transport Research Laboratory, UK and Institution of Light Engineers, UK. 1990. A Manual for Road Lighting in Developing Countries.
  • Austroads, Australia. 1993. Guide to Traffic Engineering Practice: Part 6, Roundabouts.
  • Austroads, Australia. 1993. Guide to Traffic Engineering Practice: Part 7, Traffic Signals.
  • Institute of Transportation Engineers, USA. 1994. ITE Traffic Safety Toolbox.
  • Institute of Highways Engineers, UK. 1997. Transport in the Urban Environment.

Publications Available From the Transport Help Desk

  • Carlsson, Gunnar, and Karl-Olov Hedman. 1990. A Systematic Approach to Road Safety in Developing Countries. INU 63, Infrastructure and Urban Development Department, World Bank, Washington, DC.
  • Ross, Alan, and Mukami Mwiraria. 1992. Review of World Bank Experience in Road Safety. INU 93, Infrastructure and Urban Development Department, World Bank, Washington, DC.
  • Amundsen, Finn H. 1995. Review of World Bank Experience in Traffic Safety Concerning Motorized and Non-Motorized Traffic (1989-94). TWUTD, World Bank, Washington, DC.
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