U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
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Washington, DC 20590
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Common Safety Program Themes
Highway Safety as a Public Health or Quality of Life Issue
Comprehensive and Coordinated Safety Plans and Goals
Highway Safety Program Elements
Highway Safety Support Activities
The scanning team noted that the highly successful highway safety programs in the four countries visited share a number of common themes. The effectiveness of the safety programs in Sweden, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom appear to result at least partially from the application of these themes. Several commonalities among the highway safety programs explored are described below.
For the most part, highway safety is viewed as a public health or quality of life issue in the countries visited. In all cases, this viewpoint started with the national government's clear support of safety programs. A number of approaches have brought the issue of highway safety to the forefront for local governments and the general public. These include major advertising campaigns, accident commissions, financial incentives, and the direct involvement of local representatives in creating national and local safety plans.
At least two countries the team visited have a roadway safety philosophy, concept, or slogan. This serves as a focal point for roadway safety discussions among transportation professionals, agencies, and the general public, and helps make safety a common point of discussion. Opinions differ, of course, on the choice of a national philosophy, concept, or slogan. Some transportation officials believe that if an overarching safety philosophy is not selected or communicated properly, it may do more harm than good to the relationship between transportation professionals and the general public.
All of the countries the team visited take a proactive approach to highway safety that includes a fully integrated and nationally accepted comprehensive safety plan. Normally, these plans are created through a coordinated effort of communication and input from all levels of government and other organizations involved in roadway safety. With this approach, individuals, agencies, and groups involved in actual application of safety improvements gain a vested interest in successful implementation of plan measures. In all the countries, local governments have most of the responsibility for safety improvement implementation, and their cooperative and effective involvement is necessary to achieve national safety goals and targets.
Three out of four countries have specific fatality and injury reduction targets in their national safety plans. These targets serve not only as a focal point for the safety improvement approach followed, but also for the safety measures recommended and implemented. Strong national leadership and significant financial support for safety improvements, combined with comprehensive involvement of the safety community, are keys to success.
The national safety plans typically form the basis for other safety plans and targets. In many of the countries visited, state departments of transportation and local governments develop and sometimes are required to create their own safety plans. Most of these lower-level plans consider the measures and targets expressed nationally, and then describe how a particular agency intends to improve roadway safety. The plans take into account the agency's existing resources, identify safety related measures it could implement, and set a specific safety target for the jurisdiction. Typically, these targets are the same as the national goals, but in some cases they are not. Normally, monitoring of progress toward local and national safety targets is required.
Several elements of highway safety programs in the countries the scanning team visited share similarities. These activities and approaches are key components to the effective application of the safety plan in these countries and past reductions in roadway fatalities and injuries. Some safety activities observed in more than one of the countries visited include:
Many items listed have been implemented in some form in the United States. Compliance with regulations related to these program elements in the countries visited appears to be significant, although no specific information was provided.
One factor in each country that has a significant impact on the success of the highway safety program is the existence of strong, effective support activities. For example, each country does a significant amount of safety data collection and analysis. The results of these activities are used to determine appropriate national and local safety targets and to show how they can be achieved. In addition, results are used to indicate the impacts of existing or planned safety improvements, and allow evaluation of these impacts for effectiveness. These support activities also allow the performance of the agencies implementing safety measures to be measured, and in at least one case the result of this analysis has financial incentive impacts. The data collected and analyzed help determine the general approach and specific measures used to influence roadway safety, such as black spot versus corridor or area-wide implementation.
Each country provides significant funding to highway safety research agencies for their active technical support, expertise, and policy analysis capabilities. In addition, substantial intellectual capacity and support are directed toward the highway safety field. In several cases, a significant portion of the funding to roadway safety research organizations and nongovernmental organizations is also from the national government. Nongovernmental organizations, for the most part, participate directly in the highway safety programming and plan development decision-making process. They often challenge governmental approaches or operate as a watchdog for the general public on roadway safety.