The Safe System Approach in Action


Road crashes kill over 1.3 million people worldwide each year and seriously injure millions more. The Safe System approach to road safety can drastically reduce road deaths – but how can it be put into action? Building on the deliberations of a joint ITF–World Bank Working Group, this report proposes a framework for designing, implementing and assessing projects with a Safe System focus. In addition, it draws on lessons from real-world case studies to offer guidance on implementing Safe System interventions.

This report follows two earlier ITF reports, published in 2008 and 2016, respectively, on the Safe System approach to improving road safety. The United Nations General Assembly has endorsed this approach, and it now forms the basis for the new Global Plan for the Decade of Action on Road Safety 2021–2030. Leading road-safety organizations have also adopted it, and Safe System implementations are now increasingly common in many countries.

An important finding from previous research is that road-user error is typically the last failure in a causal chain of events. In a Safe System, all road-traffic professionals are responsible for creating the conditions for road users to comply with rules for safe travel behavior. Overstating the role of road-user error may result in a reduced focus on effective countermeasures that address systemic failures in this causal chain.

The current report confirms that the Safe System approach is valid for all countries. The operational framework proposed in the report defines Safe System components for projects, regions, countries or organizations. This framework helps visualize what the Safe System should look like in various contexts. It also outlines the types of activities required at different stages of the Safe System journey.
The framework stresses the importance of interdependence and multiplier effects between policy interventions and actors (referred to in this report as partners). Within a Safe System, partners should not take a ‘silo’ approach to road-safety interventions. Although it is useful to break the road-safety problem into smaller components for analysis and planning purposes, it is critical to view these different elements as interlinked parts of the whole system.

The report also presents lessons from case studies of road-safety interventions with a Safe System component. The case studies analyzed by the Working Group reveal no single recipe for successful implementation. Instead, they point to a variety of approaches conditioned by national and local contexts, and the crucial role of robust institutional governance and co-operation between partners in any successful Safe System intervention.


Report Details

The Safe System Approach in Action

Did you know?
Did you now

82% of Road Crash Fatalities and Injuries in the economically productive age groups (15 - 64 years.)

82% of Road Crash Fatalities and Injuries in the economically productive age groups (15 - 64 years.)