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The safety system concept to make roads safer

Published: February 2020

While significant progress in improving road safety has been made in some countries in the last decade, the overall global results are far worse and changes are urgently needed to considerably reduce the number of global road fatalities and injuries. Road traffic injuries constitute the first cause of accidental death globally. Road traffic accidents are responsible for more than 1.3 million deaths each year, while estimates of non-fatal injuries range from 20 million to 50 million. The United Nations General Assembly, with particular reference to resolution A/RES/72/271 of 12 April 2018, expressed the concern that, at the current rate of progress by member States, the target 3.61 of Sustainable Development Goal 3 will not be met by 2020.

Enhanced national and international efforts are urgently needed to harness and improve the safety crisis on roads. A new way to address this overwhelming challenge is particularly needed to swiftly improve global road safety. Drawing from the past good practices and lessons, experience from other modes of transport, and special characteristics of mobility by road, this publication recommends an architecture of national road safety system to help effectively manage road safety.
Road safety systems do exist physically at national and international levels. At national level, some countries have comprehensive and effectively functioning systems, and some have only parts of the systems or less effectively functioning systems. At international level the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (ECE) has developed a set of conventions on road safety, including licensing of drivers, traffic rules, road signs/signals and markings, performance requirements for vehicle construction, vehicle road worthiness and inspection, carriage of dangerous goods and driving/rest periods. The lack is often the recognition of the role of the systems and the use of the system principles to identify gaps or missing parts in national road safety systems as well as the continuous assessment of an effective coordination of all parts within the systems as the basis for a good guidance to improve road safety.

This publication presents the experiences from good performing countries in road safety and the relative success of maritime transport and civil aviation in their safety management in comparison with the global efforts for improving road safety. Based on them, this publication depicts a comprehensive picture of road safety systems, that can work effectively to prevent accidents, protect people in accidents, rescue people after accidents and learn from accidents. The systems include all necessary elements at national level and regulatory support at the international level.

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