In 2004 there were over 43 000 people killed on the roads of the 25 Member States of the European Union (EU), additionally around 3.3 million people were injured. The costs to society exceeded €180 billion which is around twice the annual budget of the European Commission and 2% of EU GDP.
The EU target of a 50% reduction in fatalities by 2010 will only be achieved by the introduction of the most effective countermeasures. It relies on the existence of basic knowledge of crashes and their causation and the availability of road safety data to monitor and assess performance. In its 2002 White Paper (as well as other public documents), the European Commission expressed the demand for a Road Safety Observatory.
This Integrated Project meets those demands. The data resources developed within SafetyNet are intended to revolutionise the EU approaches to road safety.
The Road Safety Observatory will enable the Commission to monitor progress towards targets, identify best practice, and ensure that new regulatory and other safety actions will result in the maximum casualty reduction. All data assembled or gathered within the project will be available over the web to the entire road safety community.
The objective of the project was to build the framework of a European Road Safety Observatory, which will be the primary focus for road safety data and knowledge, as specified in the Road Safety Action Plan 2003.
The Observatory supported all aspects of road and vehicle safety policy development at European and national levels. It makes new proposals for common European approaches in several areas including exposure data and Safety Performance Indicators. It extends the CARE database to incorporate the new EU Member States and develops new fatal and in-depth accident causation databases. It also develops new statistical methods that can be used to analyse combined macroscopic and other data.
The main elements in SafetyNet were:
1. CARE Data
The CARE database is the only existing disaggregated pan-European accident data set, comprising the national accident databases from the 'old' 15 Member States. A series of transformation functions have already been developed to produce a smaller but harmonised dataset for fatal crashes. SafetyNet extends these transformations to include the data from the 10 new Member States which joined the EU in 2004 and Switzerland and Norway. This has made publicly available, for the first time, statistical reports from CARE in the form of fact sheets and reviews of the combined accident data of 25 Member States. Fact sheets present accident data describing a number of road user groups.
2. Risk Exposure Data (RED)
International comparisons are frequently best conducted using risk evaluations rather than numeric comparisons. Many Member States do gather exposure data, in order to calculate risk, however these measurements are frequently not comparable between countries. This task developed a methodology according to the state of the art, organised the data gathering and developed new transformation rules to be applied to data from the Member States, permitting harmonised comparisons. An ideal list of key metrics of exposure has been established. Initial reviews of the data available from the Member States and Eurostat indicated that the majority of these data are available in a variety of forms from many EU Member States. Work in SafetyNet developed a series of transformations to bring the available measures to a common comparable framework.
3. Safety Performance Indicators
Safety performance indicators (SPIs) are support tools to understand better the causes of accidents and to monitor policy interventions. Examples include measurements of seatbelt usage rates, road speeds and alcohol in drivers. They are needed in addition to a count of crashes or injuries for several reasons, e.g. incomplete recording of crashes, the fact that crashes and injuries are subject to random fluctuations and a recorded number does not necessarily reflect the underlying 'expected' number, and because counts alone say nothing about the processes that produce crashes.
This part of the project builds a new framework within which data gathered by Member States are brought together in a comparable format. A broad group of SPIs has been defined that covers all of the key aspects of the safety management process.
The first major result was mainly concerned with setting up a comprehensive and relevant statistical framework for road accident data collection among the EU countries. This allowed for compatible statistics from the EU-25 Member States, as well as assisting New Member States to make their national accident data compatible with the CARE system: development of appropriate statistical outputs based on CARE data, establishment of a common accident data collection set and methodology and estimation of the real number of road accident casualties. In this setting, the SafetyNet project made the CARE system a reference point for road safety analysis in Europe. More specifically, SafetyNet developed a methodology development report detailing the task of setting up a fatal accident data collection routine in the seven EU partner countries.
The second main result is a detailed analysis of Safety Performance Indicators (SPI) for road safety throughout the EU. Based on this analysis, the SafetyNet project designed an SPI Manual in order to assist countries in establishing the necessary systems of data collection for producing national SPIs, in each one of a set of predefined safety fields, and to make them comparable on a European level. For each safety area, the Manual defines quantitative SPIs, demonstrates existing practices for their measurements, provides best practice examples (when available), and details the procedures which are necessary to collect and process the required data for the estimation of the SPIs' set on a national level.
A third important aspect of the SafetyNet project involved the construction of a European Road Safety Information System (EuroRIS). EuroRIS provides an easy way for all potential users to retrieve up to date information on road safety in the European member states. This result stemmed from an assessment of the RIS's scope and possibilities, its investment and operation costs, and the expected benefits. SafetyNet detailed a set of specifications regarding the system's content and form.
Last, SafetyNet launched an awareness website, ERSO (European Road Safety Observatory), in May 2006, together with an ERSO 'Promotion Pack' containing a variety of ready-to-use materials (e.g. the ERSO logo, a press release, a flyer), the end goal being to contribute to the improvement of road safety in Europe, through better informed professionals and better informed road users.
Besides the building of the Awareness programme (ERSO website and promotion pack), SafetyNet devised a set of recommendations for transparent and independent road accident investigation. These recommendations promote and establish the requirements for conducting transparent and independent road accident investigations in all Member States according to a common European investigation methodology. Such investigations address the need to have detailed, public, transparent and independent road accident data available at the European level. The recommendations specifically address the safety oriented investigation of road accidents, which aims ultimately to feed policy making.
These Recommendations should be viewed as a first step for future projects aiming to implement a European road accident investigation programme and working towards a common European accident investigation methodology.
The next phase in the further development of the European Road Safety Observatory concerns the operational function of ERSO in the form of a full-scale pilot study with routine data handling aspects and a further integrated research function.
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