Road traffic casualty reduction targets

“Studies show that countries with road traffic casualty targets have a better road safety record and fewer fatalities than those without. Fixing goals helps to motivate people to action, and to win political will and institutional support.” BAN Ki-moon. Secretary General of United Nations

Why does setting targets help to save lives? It focus on casualty reduction as policy priority; indicates commitment of Government and motivates stakeholders. Target setting also raises public awareness and strengthens political resolve, generates activity to deliver road safety improvements and generates demand for data collection for forecasting and monitoring which leads to better performance.

The OECD report Towards Zero - Ambitious Road Safety Targets and the Safe System suggests the following 9 recommendations in order to be able to set ambitious road safety targets and reach them:

1. Adopt an ambitious vision

All countries are advised to adopt and promote a level of ambition that seeks in the long term to eliminate death and serious injury arising from use of the road transport system. This is an aspirational vision in that achievement will require interventions and development of effective interventions. Part of its value lies in driving innovation. The long term vision needs to be complemented with interim targets for specific planning periods. 

2. Set interim targets

Ambitious, achievable and empirically-derived road safety targets should be adopted by all countries to drive improved performance and accountability. These targets should be developed by using a methodology that links interventions and institutional outputs with intermediate and final outcomes to develop achievable targets for different intervention options.

3. Develop a Safe System approach, essential for achieving ambitious targets

It is recommended that all countries, regardless of their level of road safety performance, move to a Safe System approach to road safety. It addresses all elements of the road transport system in and integrated way with the aim of ensuring crash energy levels are below what would to cause fatal or serious injury. A safe system approach accommodates human error: rather than ‘blaming the victim’ for causing crashes. It stimulates the development of the innovative interventions and new partnerships necessary to achieve ambitious long term targets.

4. Exploit proven interventions

Countries experiencing difficulty in improving their road safety performance should as a matter of urgency conduct high-level reviews of their safety management capacity and prepare long-term investment strategies and related programs and projects to overcome revealed capacity weaknesses. These programmes and projects should adapt and implement proven institutional management arrangements and interventions used in more successful countries, and make use of good practice tools developed by international agencies to assist this process.

5. Conduct sufficient data collection and analysis to understand crash risks

All countries are encouraged to develop data collection procedures to cover: final outcomes (including at least deaths and serious injuries by road user); exposure measures (for example, relating outcomes to population levels, licensed driver numbers, distances travelled); intermediate outcomes (also called safety performance indicators and including levels of mean traffic speeds, seat belt wearing, drink driving and vehicle and infrastructure safety ratings); institutional delivery outputs (including different categories of enforcement effort); socio-economic costs associated with road trauma; and underlying economic factors (including new vehicle sales). Data systems. A road safety manual for decision-makers and practitioners

6. Strengthen the road safety management system

All countries should commit to ensuring an effective road safety management system and in particular seek to achieve a strong results focus through their institutional management arrangements. This results focus requires clear identification of: a lead agency; the core group of government ministries and agencies to be involved; their roles and responsibilities; and the performance targets in terms of institutional outputs and intermediate and final outcomes to be achieved within a defined strategy.  Country Guidelines for the Conduct of Road Safety

7. Accelerate knowledge transfer

Knowledge transfer initiatives must be supported with adequate investment in targeted programs and projects, designed to overcome institutional capacity weaknesses, especially by creating sustainable learning opportunities in the countries concerned. Strong and sustained international cooperation will be required to mobilize resources and support commensurate with the scale of the losses arising from road deaths and serious injuries. This is especially the case with low and middle-income countries, but it is also relevant to high-income countries seeking innovative strategies for achieving the ultimate goal of eliminating death and serious injury.

8. Invest in road safety

Most countries need to improve their knowledge of expenditure on the consequences of road crashes, both by government and injury insurance companies, and investment in road safety improvement and trauma prevention. Road safety authorities need this information to prepare financial and economic evidence on the costs and effectiveness of proposed interventions in order to win whole of government support for funding innovative programmes and for transparency in resource allocation for crash prevention and treatment. 

9. Foster commitment at the highest levels of government

Sustained government commitment at the highest level is essential for improving road safety. To secure this, road safety managers not only need to develop evidence-based road safety programmes but need to advocate strategies that reflect an understanding of political constraints such as the electoral cycle. Significant effort needs to be directed at informing the public about the Safe System approach. Public consultation should be comprehensive and should precede final political consideration of new policies.

Promotion of road safety targets was the chosen topic for the United Nations Development Account (UNDA) project in the light of the successful results achieved by countries that have used targets as part of an effective road safety strategy.  Recently documents in “Improving Global Road Safety: Setting Regional and National Road Traffic Casualty Reduction Targets” discusses how targets can contribute to making the world’s roads safer in the decade of action for global road safety and what activities have been put in place.