Opinion - Safe System approach

Jessica Truong*, programmes director at the Towards Zero Foundation, makes the case for adopting the Safe System approach.

Every year, more than 1.2m people die on the road around the world, with millions more seriously injured and urgent action is required to reverse this trend.

Road safety is an issue that should concern everyone and the campaign below developed by the Transport Accident Commission (TAC) in Victoria, Australia is a powerful reminder of why we need to do more to reduce road trauma – because there is no one someone won’t miss.

There is certainly more that can be done to reduce road related deaths and serious injuries. Many countries such as Sweden, The Netherlands and Australia have embraced the Safe System approach to road safety to help reduce road trauma on their roads.

At the heart of the Safe System (also known as Vision Zero, Sustainable Safety and Towards Zero) is the belief that no one should be killed or serious injured as a result of using the road. Human life and health should be paramount and the first and foremost consideration when designing the road network.

The Safe System is underpinned by the following key principles:

• As humans, we will all inevitably make mistakes

• As humans, we are vulnerable - our unprotected bodies can only withstand forces equivalent to an impact speed of 30km/h before the risk of death significantly increases

• We need to build a forgiving road system that can absorb our mistakes and limit the transfer of forces that can result in serious injuries or death

• Road safety is a shared responsibility between everyone in the community

Understanding these principles, it is therefore important to build a safe road system that can accommodate people’s mistakes and vulnerability and this will involve significant developments in:

• Safe roads

• Safe vehicles

• Safe speeds

• Safe people

Zero is the only acceptable number when it comes to deaths and serious injuries on our roads. With the Safe System approach to road safety, zero doesn’t have to be just a vision, it can become reality.

Jessica Truong
Jessica Truong joined the Towards Zero Foundation in February 2016 as the programmes director where she oversees programs and advocates for policy changes that can enhance road safety globally. Prior to joining the Towards Zero Foundation, Jessica worked for the Transport Accident Commission in Australia, managing road safety programmes and public education campaigns on a range of road safety issues. Jessica holds qualifications in psychology and science and is currently completing a PhD in road safety.