Road Safety from a global perspective is modelled and reported on in the Australian Department of Infrastructure and Regional Development’s Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE) research report, Road Safety: Modelling a Global Phenomenon (2014). Whilst the research report focuses on motorised road safety and hence vulnerable road users, cyclists and pedestrians don’t get a mention directly in the report, the report is still of interest to cyclists, pedestrians and of course motorists.
It is of interest to us as cyclists and pedestrians as so often we also wear the motorist hat, but also and critically, the report does draw conclusions on the impact of lower speeds: lower speeds are important to the safety of cyclists and pedestrians.
The full report, Research Report No. 141 Road Safety: Modelling a Global Phenomenon is available for download from my Dropbox. My interest here is on drawing attention to both the report and a couple of the conclusions.
Road Safety: Lowering Speeds Saves Lives
One key conclusion in the Road Safety: Modelling a Global Phenomenon report that caught my attention as a cyclist was this line in the “at a glance” section on the report on page v:
Experience from around the world also shows that laws lowering speed limits and legal blood alcohol limits are effective in saving lives.
Yes you read that right, lowering speed limits are effective in saving lives.
We are seeing a movement in some high pedestrian/cyclist/motorist areas of interaction to reduce speeds to 30 km/h, e.g., the recent decision to reduce speeds to 30 km/h in the cappuccino strip in Fremantle for example. This research report supports such moves and if we value life, we need to see more of this! Lives have to be more important than our use of the motor vehicle surly.
Patterns of Road Safety in the 21 Countries Studied – Enforcement
A positive to come out of the research is that fatality rates have trended down as societies have become motorised. The report notes that initially the gain come from adopting traffic management measures such as stop signs, traffic lights, lane separation etc and then from the 1970s it has been the role of vehicle safety improvements, most importantly the wearing of seat belts.
More recently (from the 1980s) and I think interestingly as it says we as motorists, as road users, we cannot be responsible for ourselves and each other, enforcement, principally aimed at the control of speed and driver impairment has become the driving force behind the decline in fatality rates.
What this says to me as a cyclist is that my use of cameras is important, but not simply using them, but reporting to the Police the behaviour of motorists that put cyclists at risk is very important … the key driver for road safety for cyclists here is enforcement.
Road Safety: Concluding Comments
The report into international road safety concludes:
Road safety has in the past been achieved by a variety of measures. Principal among these have been seat belt wearing, and speed and alcohol control (with lower legal limits and road-side testing). As these measures will continue to apply in the future, it is vital to establish beyond doubt their continuing importance. Beyond that, an understanding of the challenges nations face in trying to continue the downward trends in death and injury is also vital. As the main measures that have been responsible for downward movements in rates begin to reach maximum effect, and traffic continues to grow, the tendency will be for flat to rising levels of death and injury, unless previous measures are ramped up and/or new road safety measures are brought into play. An understanding of the trends revealed by this report and of the effects of the great variety of measures in different nations, will aid policy makers when planning future road safety measures.
Road Safety: Implications for Cyclists
Please share your thoughts on the findings in this study into international road safety outcomes. Are their implications here for cyclists and motorists? Have I got it right with my interpretations? Please do share your thoughts below in the comments box.