Although the traffic safety records of Sweden, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands are the best among the countries of the European Union, the strategies that have produced the relatively good results are quite different, at the detailed level, in these countries.
So, the question arises as to exactly what made them work well in coping with the traffic safety problem. Policies on traffic safety, as well as the resulting programmes of measures, of each of the countries are well documented in national policy plans and related official records. Such documents constituting the national policies and their backgrounds comprise the starting point of the study.
The aim is to undertake both a more detailed assessment of the data and assumptions supporting these policies, and to identify the more general social and transport policies in each country that influence the strategies adopted. This is part of a continuing programme of study intended to establish the best practice in national and European terms of policy and practice approaches to tackling road safety problems.
The aim of the study is to identify the underlying elements of the current policies and programmes of the SUN countries that make them particularly effective in coping with the traffic safety problem. If such elements can be identified, they may suggest new policies both for transfer of programmes between these countries, and for transfer to other countries that still have higher casualty rates.
A methodology for the meaningful comparisons of countries has been developed and applied in analyses of:
- national road safety strategies, mainly over the last two decades;
- fatality risks of comparable road types, road user modes and collisions between modes;
- four case study subjects: drinking and driving, seat belt and child restraint use, local infrastructural improvements on urban and minor rural roads, and safety on main inter-urban roads;
- changes in overall national risk and several more specific risk trends between 1980 and 2000.
- Based on these analyses, the fatality reductions between 1980-2000 are attributed to road safety measures and discussed in the context of the targeted fatality reductions up to 2010.
- Within the study it has not been possible to look at all policy areas in detail, so it is not possible to provide a full explanation of the effects of all policies on national risk levels.
Nevertheless the case studies provide an indication of the way in which the more detailed information provides more scope to understand the effect of specific policy changes.
The general conclusions of the project are:
- all three countries (Sweden, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands) have achieved similar levels of safety through continuing planned improvements in these levels over recent decades
- policy areas targeted have been similar, but policies implemented have differed at a detailed level
- differences in focus for safety programmes result from both different relative sizes of accident groups and differences in the structure of road safety capability which influences its ability to deliver different types of policy
- progress has been achieved through directing improved policies to all three areas — vehicle, road and road users
- there is room for further improvement in well-established safety fields in all three countries, and scope to learn from each other to ensure collective experience is used effectively
- risk factors are provided throughout the report, for the SUN countries, which can be used by other countries as indicators of the levels of safety that are achievable in relation to different aspects of the road safety problem. Differences in these factors between the three SUN countries indicate how these indicators need to be tailored to national situations
- the casualty reduction target set by the EU is ambitious and will require substantial additional actions if it is to be achieved. The current plans of the SUN countries fall below this target.
Main recommendations for future road safety improvements in the SUN countries:
- Car drivers have a higher risk in Sweden than in the other two countries; traffic safety effort in Sweden should concentrate on car drivers and their speed behaviour.
- Britain would benefit from a lower blood alcohol limit for drinking and driving, more intensively enforced, but with some relaxation of penalties for the new lower limit offences.
- Britain needs to find an infrastructure solution that will enable pedestrian and vehicular traffic to co-exist at lower fatality levels, for example by extending the length of urban roads with 20mph (30kph) speed limits.
- Britain should also give greater emphasis to developing a more extensive high quality road network of similar density to that in the other countries; this could encourage greater acceptance of lower speeds on other roads.
- The Netherlands needs to understand why its moped rider risk is so high, in order to identify an appropriate solution.
- The Netherlands also needs to review its drink-driving problem to identify how best to make further reductions in alcohol related fatalities.
- The Netherlands needs to identify an effective strategy to increase seat belt wearing rates to a similar level as the other two countries.
Main conclusion for the Commission of the EU (and member states):
- The total fatality saving of the SUN country targets for 2010 is expected to be about one third compared to 2000, while the total fatality reduction of other EU member states derived from trend extrapolations of risk reduction and traffic growth is less than 40% in that period. Therefore, the EU target of 50% fatality reduction between 2000 and 2010 seems very ambitious and its achievement requires additional actions.