Why do we need road safety management?


The high cost of motorized mobility to society and public health

Each year over 1 million people are killed and 50 million injured on roads around the world. Without new and effective action, deaths in low to middle-income countries are forecast to rise steeply. At the same time, progress has slowed in recent years in the better performing countries where investment in preventing and reducing serious health loss from road traffic injury is not commensurate with its high socio-economic cost. This cost has been estimated at around 2% of EU countries’ gross domestic product - around Euro 180 billion and twice the EU’s annual budget.


Road traffic injury is largely preventable

As highlighted in the World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention, fatal and long term crash injury is largely predictable, largely avoidable and a problem amenable to rational analysis and remedy. Research and experience in North America, Australasia and Europe has shown that very substantial reductions in road deaths and serious injuries have been achieved through the application of evidence-based measures against the background of increased motorization.


Achieving results

As the OECD has stated, setting ambitious targets is one thing; meeting them is another. The limits to improved road safety performance are shaped by a country’s road safety management system which determines the results being sought and produces the interventions to achieve them.

  • The shift to safe system – the new performance frontier
    Countries have become progressively more ambitious in terms of the results desired (see evolution of road safety management for results) culminating in Safe System.This concept represents the new performance frontier for road safety management in embracing ambitious long term goals to eliminate death and serious injury and interim targets, exacting intervention strategies and strengthened institutional management.
  • Road safety in a complex multi-sectoral context
    In practice road safety is a shared responsibility at international, national, regional, and local levels.Achieving road safety results is a multi-disciplinary activity which takes place in a complex multi-sectoral context. Multi-sectoral activity provides both the opportunity for a holistic system-wide approach and the possibility that safety interests will be submerged by competing interests. It thus requires careful management and leadership.
  • Leadership, ownership, and accountability
    Achieving road safety results requires long-term governmental ownership, leadership and political will.The World Bank and OECD recommend that all countries should commit to ensuring an effective road safety management system and, in particular, to review and seek to achieve a strong results focus through their institutional management arrangements and resolve any capacity weaknesses. This focus requires clear identification of: a lead agency/department; the core group of government ministries and agencies to be involved; their roles and responsibilities defined; high-level strategic review of performance; definition of a long term safe system goal, and the interim performance targets in terms of institutional outputs and intermediate and final outcomes to be achieved within a time-defined strategy.It requires high-level championing across society

The road safety management system

Safety is produced just like other goods and services and the production process is viewed as a management system with three levels: institutional management functions produce interventions, which in turn produce results [5]. Consideration of all elements of the road safety management system and the linkages between them becomes critical for any country seeking to identify and improve its current performance level [5] [52]

  • Institutional management functions

Seven institutional management functions are the foundation on which road safety management systems are built comprising results focus – the overarching function -, coordination, legislation, funding and resource allocation, promotion, monitoring and evaluation and research and development and knowledge transfer. These functions are delivered primarily by all the government agencies producing interventions, but they are also delivered in government partnerships with civil society and business entities to achieve the desired focus on results. Effective institutional management is a pre-requisite of successful results-focused intervention [5] [52].

  • Interventions

These comprise system-wide strategies and programmes of interventions to address safety targets. Interventions cover the planning, design and operation of the road network, the entry and exit of vehicles, and users into the road network, and the recovery and rehabilitation of crash victims. They seek to manage exposure to the risk of crashes, prevent crashes, and reduce crash injury severity and the consequences of crash injury. They comprise safety designs, standards, and rules and well as a combination of activity to secure compliance with these such as information, publicity, enforcement and incentive.

  • Results

In good practice, road safety results are expressed as long term goals and interim quantitative targets. Targets specify the desired safety performance endorsed by governments at all levels, stakeholders and the community. To be credible, interim targets must be achievable with cost-effective interventions. Targets are usually set in terms of final outcomes. They can also include intermediate outcomes consistent with their achievement, and institutional output measures required to achieve the intermediate results.


This web text is based on two recent major pieces of work by the World Bank, 2008 [5] and the OECD 2008 [52] which set out the current state of the art in road safety management and its assessment and provide guidance to decision-makers and practitioners on steps to achieving ambitious results.


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