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Appendix 1 Setting Public Targets

The public announcement of targets for reducing death and serious injury from road traffic crashes and the routine public reporting of progress in meeting those targets are fundamental components of a successful road traffic safety strategy. Key considerations in target setting include the following:

  1. Express the targets as reductions in the number of deaths and serious injuries, not as reductions in rates. Numbers make the most sense to people. Moreover, rates fall while numbers rise whenever the gains in the level of safety are less than the growth in road use, the current situation in the United States. (See table 1). Traffic safety rates are improving continuously in all Western motorized nations and this fact must not be used to do nothing.
  2. The target can be set as a percentage reduction or as cumulative savings from a nominated baseline. The Victorian strategy "arrive alive!" has a target of reducing the absolute number of deaths and serious injuries by 20 percent by 2007. The New South Wales strategy "Road Safety 2010" sets a target of saving 2,000 lives by 2010. The latter has appeal in that it focuses on "lives saved" rather than "deaths permitted." The cumulative savings target, however, is high risk in that it can fail through one aberrantly high death toll in any given year in the target period.
  3. The targets should include both deaths and serious injuries. However, careful thought must be given to the definition of serious injuries, because many traffic safety countermeasures have more impact on the severity of injury than on the frequency of traffic crashes. Thus, there is a risk that a reduction in serious injuries may be accompanied by an increase in minor injuries. A useful approach is to target the reduction of injuries requiring hospital stays of, say, 48 hours or more.
  4. While a single (death and serious injury) public target is essential, the formal traffic safety strategy should include a set of disaggregated targets specific to each implementing agency. For example, the road agency might set a target of reducing death and serious injury from run-off-road crashes into roadside furniture by x percent; the police might set a target of reducing alcohol-related serious injury crashes by z percent; and so on. This is vital for ensuring accountability at the agency level in a complex environment where many agencies have critical contributions to make.
  5. Targets for intermediate performance criteria are also useful. For example, the police might set a target of reducing the mean travel speed on a given road by y kilometers per hour. The research evidence suggests the likely injury reduction that will follow. The intermediate measure is more robustly measurable than "speed-related crashes."
  6. Input targets-for example, sealing shoulders on x miles of narrow rural road-are the least useful but are sometimes necessary. In the case of random breath testing, targets of hours of enforcement effort have proven critical in keeping the enforcement above the threshold level needed for effective general deterrence.
  7. Targets should not be selected because they reflect current best practices or some political whim. Targets must be demonstrably objective and achievable if the strategy and its programs are implemented.
  8. Targets need to be set systematically and scientifically. In most Australian jurisdictions the process involves the following:
    • Disaggregate the traffic safety issues into their key component parts, such as side impacts at intersections, head-on collisions on rural roads, alcohol-related crashes, etc.
    • For each substantial problem, identify from the literature the proven countermeasure options and their likely effects from the scientific evaluations reported.
    • Select a package of measures likely to be implementable within the particular sociopolitical framework and assess the aggregate impact of that package of measures.
    • Make allowances for all counterinfluences-for example, forecast growths in road use-and appropriately discount the anticipated benefits from the selected package of measures. All such assumptions must be made explicit.
    • For longer term strategies (such as a 10-year plan), targets should not be set beyond the halfway point as forecasting is a problematic art. As the halfway point is reached, a new target can be set for the balance of the plan.
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Page last modified on November 7, 2014
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