Comparison of Road Safety Management in Six Countries

Author(s): Jonah, Boase

Slidedeck Presentation:

2B Boase



Many countries have implemented measures to address road safety through research, laws, regulations, programs and policies.


To compare and contrast how road safety is managed in Australia, Canada, the Netherlands, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United States. The administrative structures of these approaches are described, as well as the road safety strategies being employed and the policies and programs that have been implemented. Learning how other countries have addressed road safety will provide road safety professionals with some ideas about what can be adopted. A number of governmental and non-governmental websites were examined to learn about how road safety programs are managed in these countries.

Target Group:

All road safety professionals


Australia’s federal Department of Infrastructure, Regional Development and Cities has a range of functions that support its’ role in road safety; administering safety standards for new vehicles, administering the National Black Spot Program and other road funding, administering the training for new drivers, producing national road safety statistics, coordinating the National Road Safety Strategy 2011–2020 and developing the successor plan Road Safety Strategy 2021-2030 which adopts the UN's Resolution target of reducing fatalities and serious injuries by 50% by 2030. All jurisdictions have integrated Safe System principles into road safety project planning, and state road authorities are continuing their efforts to increase understanding and acceptance of this accountability throughout their organizations and with local commitment to Safe System principles. All jurisdictions are implementing safer speed limits in rural and urban environments.

Canada’s Multi-Modal and Road Safety Programs Directorate is responsible for the researching and promulgating of vehicle standards/regulations, as well as enforcing them (e.g., compliance testing, investigations). It also gathers collision-related data from the 13 provincial/territorial governments to update the National Collision Database and conducts research on road user behaviour to identify road safety-related risks (e.g., distracted driving). The provinces/territories are responsible for vehicle registration, licensing of all classes of drivers, driver records and driver improvement, traffic law enforcement on highways, road construction/maintenance, research, legislation, policy, and regulations. The vision of Canada’s 2025 Road Safety Strategy is Towards Zero: The Safest Roads in the World.

The Netherlands adopted a vision of Sustainable Safety in 1992 which prevents road deaths, serious road injuries by systematically reducing the underlying risks of the entire traffic system. This vision is pursued by several departments such as Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment and Safe Traffic Netherlands. The Netherlands follows a bottom-up approach such that ambitious but realistic targets are defined and updated on the basis of expected trends in casualties. This approach has been found to have a benefit-cost ratio of 3.6: 1. Their Road Safety Strategic Plan 2008–2020, "From, for and by everyone" had separate targets for fatalities and serious injuries. The subsequent plan, Road Safety Strategic Plan: 2030 focuses on the 5 pillars of the UN's Decade of Action: increased structural attention to road safety, increased cooperation amongst all public and civil authorities, risk-based policy, promoting an integral road safety policy and ongoing monitoring and adjustment of the implementation.

Sweden has a national government as well as several provincial governments. The Swedish Transport Administration is responsible for the long-term planning of the transport system and is also responsible for the state road network and road safety policies. Sweden was the first country to adopt the Vision Zero philosophy as a government policy in 1997 putting people first and focusing mainly on eliminating collisions that lead to fatalities or lifelong injuries. This vision is being pursued by following the Safe System Approach whereby a road system should be designed to minimize the harm from potential human errors. Sweden’s target was to reduce fatalities in road traffic by 50% serious injuries by 25% between 2007 and 2020 was adopted as was the more recent UN resolution of a 50% decrease in fatalities and serious injuries by 2030.

The United Kingdom (UK) is a unitary state without states or provinces, although it does have local authorities. There is a strong interdepartmental coordination to achieve agreed upon targets, orchestrated by the lead agency, the Department for Transport (DfT). The UK has adopted the Safe System Approach in its national strategy to reach its vision of zero fatalities and serious injuries. A 2018 review recommended that a new national road safety performance framework should be created which would: set out the long-term Safe System/Towards Zero goal of working towards the prevention of deaths and serious injuries and set interim quantitative targets to 2030 to reduce casualties. In response, the government committed that by 2040, the number of people killed or seriously injured on the Strategic Road Network should approach zero..

The United States is a federated country with a national government and 50 states. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) which is responsible for vehicle safety regulations and their enforcement, research related to vehicle safety and road user behaviour and the development of road safety education programs which are supported by regional offices. In some states, road safety is managed by departments of transportation which license drivers and register vehicles, construct, operate, and maintain highways, and conduct research and policy and program development. In others, the functions are split between the department of transportation and the department of motor vehicles. Although there is no national strategy, in recent years, NHTSA and many states have begun to embrace various versions of Vision Zero /Safe System/ strategies.


The road safety management systems and strategies of six countries of varying sizes and political systems are presented to show how they are organized and applied. These systems and strategies are very much a part of the political, fiscal and social fabric of the country and hence are diverse but a number of key points emerge; the need for good data to define the problem and track progress, national leadership, adoption of Vision Zero and the Safe System Approach, the setting of specific short and long- term targets, cooperation among different key stakeholders in road safety and that sufficient financing of road safety measures have significant social, health and fiscal benefits.