An Introduction to the Safe Systems Approach

Published on
September 15, 2023

What Is a Safe System Approach?

The Safe System Approach to road safety has received widespread support in the transportation world as an efficient method for addressing and reducing the inherent hazards in our complex and extensive transportation system. This strategy entails putting in place and strengthening several levels of security to both prevent accidents from happening in the first place and lessen the harm they do to the people involved when they do. It is a thorough and all-encompassing strategy that acts as a foundation for building safer settings for individuals.

As it addresses both human errors and mistakes, this marks a divergence from the conventional safety strategy. In order to protect everyone involved, the Safe System Approach entails the development of redundant safety measures. 

According to FHWA, Safe System Approach’s roots may be found in Sweden, where it was pioneered by the Vision Zero program, and in the Netherlands, where the Sustainable Safety program was first implemented. With each attaining at least a 50% reduction in deaths between 1994 and 2015, these early adopters saw substantial decreases in traffic fatalities. Since then, this idea has spread throughout other European nations and has also demonstrated remarkable success in nations like Australia and New Zealand.

Principles of a Safe System Approach

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5 Pillars of a Safe System Approach

The Safe Systems Approach to Road Safety primarily functions on 5 pillars- 

  • Safer Users

Ensure equitable safety for all road users (including those who walk, bike, drive, ride transit, or travel by other modes), promote responsible behavior and conditions, and prioritize their well-being during travel.

  • Safer Roads

Develop road environments considering human error, injury tolerance, and safety promotion. Infrastructure adjustments, like speed separation, dedicated times, and hazard alerts, reduce crash severity.

  • Safer Vehicles

Enhance accessibility to vehicle technologies that prevent crashes and reduce their impact on occupants and non-occupants. Vehicles adhere to safety regulations, integrating cutting-edge technology for collision prevention and mitigation.

  • Safer Speeds

Encourage safer speeds using holistic approaches: equitable road design, suitable speed limits, education, outreach, and enforcement. Lower speeds enhance survival rates by reducing impact, allowing more stopping distance, and improving visibility.

  • Post Crash Care

Enhance crash survivability with prompt medical care, protecting first responders, and preventing secondary incidents through effective traffic management, encompassing rapid response, transportation, and forensic analysis at the scene.

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