Researching road safety

Conducting research into road safety provisions
Monitoring traffic accidents
Studying road safety
Road safety research covers broadly the following subjects: (a) accidentology (the equivalent of epidemiology for diseases), such as vehicle/driver combinations of high risk; (b) infrastructures (road networks and equipment, such as signs); (c) vehicles; (d) user behaviour; (e) training and licensing; (f) education and public information; (g) regulation, public acceptance, enforcement and assessment; (h) emergency services; and (i) planning, land-use, transport network and modal-split analysis. Its purpose is to evaluate road safety measures and provide a modelling of traffic and the insecurity it creates.

Several types of research may be defined, including: (a) research to improve understanding (behaviour, accidentology, biomechanics [etc]); (b) methodological research (experimentation, modelling, simulation [etc]); (c) pre-standardization research (certification, quality, standards [etc]); (d) pre-competitive research (industry and services); (e) pre-regulation research (alcohol, drugs, working hours [etc]); and (f) evaluation research (before and after studies [etc]).

The research should take into account the influences of (a) mobility (mode, motive, conditions [etc]); (b) traffic (road traffic, urban and suburban traffic, diurnal or night traffic, two-wheeled vehicles [etc]); (c) the composition of the vehicles on the road (lorries, private cars, age, state, weight and power); (d) demography (the age and sex of the road users according to the transport mode and motives for their travel); (e) opinions, attitudes and behaviour that can be objectified in relation to road safety; and (f) road accidents (types, circumstances and the level of seriousness).

Efforts made in the cause of road safety are of an extreme importance considering the number of victims, repercussions, the weakening of the communication system and the enormous direct and indirect economic costs.
Road safety research is carried out by (a) specialized institutions, such as national organizations for road safety research (most funding coming from central government, but also including local government and the private sector, such as insurance and motoring organizations); (b) car and component manufacturers (generally market-driven); (c) specialized offices of government ministries (especially in areas of accidentology and pre-regulatory studies); (d) university departments and technical high schools (psychology, medicine, traumatology [etc]); and (e) testing and certification laboratories.

In line with European harmonization of certain rules and regulations, the Forum of European Road Safety Research Centres is making a precise comparison of the organization and efficiency of control and enforcement of various regulations (drink driving, speed rules, seat-beat [etc]) among different countries. The rules in force for penalties and the likelihood of detection are also included.

Deaths and injuries caused by road traffic accidents remain a high-priority issue in the European region. Despite some improvements in mortality trends, 120 000 deaths and 2.5 million injuries were reported in 1995, with indications that the number of road accidents was increasing. A recent development in tackling the problem of road safety is the increasing awareness that strategies aimed at improving safety should be integrated with those aimed at improving the environment.

New opportunities may be offered by developing the concept of upstream safety strategies directed at the underlying forces that give rise to road accidents, such as managing the demand and need for transport and understanding the reasons behind increased mobility. Notably, many of the interventions that could be considered, such as changing the relative distribution of different modes of transport and promoting accessibility rather than mobility, overlap with the strategies being worked out to address other transport-related environmental concerns such as air pollution, noise and congestion.

The progress achieved by most countries in reducing deaths from road accidents does not appear to be accompanied by a decreasing number of accidents. This indicates that the approach to road safety that is broadly used (consisting of reducing the likelihood, severity and late effects of traffic accidents) is not sufficient to reduce the number of people who die or become disabled.
Type Classification:
E: Emanations of other strategies
Related UN Sustainable Development Goals:
GOAL 4: Quality EducationGOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and InfrastructureGOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities