Best road safety practices from around the world

Countries like India could take its cue from the policies, regulatory framework and institutional capacities developed by European nations, Japan and Oman

Published: Monday 23 June 2014


Globally, countries are moving towards zero tolerance policy on accidents and transforming urban and road design for safety. Many Western European and high-income countries in the Asia-Pacific region have reduced their burdens even more dramatically. Japan reduced its disease burden from road injuries by 42 per cent between 1990 and 2010, and Sweden lowered its burden by 30 per cent. Case studies of interventions, policies, regulations, and institutional capacities to deliver them in these high-achieving countries could give key lessons for countries like India.

According to the WHO, the middle-income countries have the highest annual road traffic fatality rate at 20.1 per 100,000 population; the rate is 18.3 per 100,000 population in low-income countries. The lowest fatality rate is in high-income countries at 8.7 per 100,000 population. But several high-income countries have much less number of cyclists and pedestrians than India and other developing nations.

Sweden’s Vision Zero road safety policy: Sweden prioritises safety over speed—low urban speed-limits, pedestrian zones and barriers to separate cars from bikes are the key measures. It has proposed a speed limit of 30 km/hour, built 1,500 km of "2+1" roads where each lane of traffic takes turns to use a middle lane for overtaking – this has saved many lives. It has built 12,600 safer crossings along with strict policing that have halved the number of pedestrian deaths over the past five years. It has also integrated the guidelines for traffic safety and crime prevention under the Traffic for an Attractive City (TRAST). Swedish police guidelines include safety audit guidelines.

The Netherlands’ Sustainable Safety vision: It has led to implementation of effective road safety measures. Infrastructure measures have reduced the number of fatalities by 30 per cent.

Europe: Slowing traffic down, separation of vulnerable people from motorised traffic, initiating awareness campaigns, and more pedestrian crossings and fines for violation of pedestrian spaces are some of the measures in place. In the EU, fines are prescribed by law, either as part of a Road Traffic Act, or as subject of a special legislative provision. Some countries allow police officers to decide the actual amount of the fine according to the specificity of the traffic situation. In Finland, Sweden, Norway and Switzerland, the amount of the fine is decided on the basis of the net income of the offender.

Paris: The city mayor has announced a maximum speed limit of 30 km/hour on all streets of the city.

UK: Careless driving can be fined up to UK £100 and points are added to the licence number. A proposal from the department of transport restricts motorists to a speed of 15 mph, a fine of UK £100, and three penalty points for overtaking cyclists. This is for a few cities where cycle flows are high.

Germany: A computerised point system for traffic violations is in place. One can incur up to three points if the offence endangers traffic safety. Once there are eight demerit points, the licence is revoked. To get it back, the motorist needs to pass a physical and mental status examination.

California: A new traffic law will be implemented from September 2014. It aims to reduce high rates of bicycle accidents, injuries and fatalities across the state. Motorists will be required to keep at least a three-feet distance from bicycle riders as they pass them on the road.

Oman: The Royal Oman Police has introduced speed cameras — both stationery and hidden—to monitor roads. Stricter punitive measures against those who jump signals have been introduced and all these have contributed in a reduction in the number of road fatalities.

Other cities: In London, the Road Traffic Reduction Act allows authorities to reduce traffic levels or their rate of growth in targeted areas for lowering congestion and improving air quality. San Francisco has enforced a Better Street Policy. New York City is promoting pedestrian infrastructure. In Auckland, the Land Transport (Road Users) Rule stops motorists from stopping or parking on a footpath and pedestrians have to be given right of the way.


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