More than 1.25 million people are killed on roads each year, the majority in developing countries, making traffic fatalities the tenth leading cause of death worldwide. Children, elderly and poor people are particularly vulnerable. Are drivers and pedestrians always to blame? This research finds that the most effective way to prevent traffic deaths is a systemic approach that shifts responsibility away from the drivers and pedestrians using roads to the city planners and officials designing them. Analysis in 53 countries found that those that have taken a “Safe System” based approach have achieved both the lowest rates of fatalities per 100,000 inhabitants and the greatest reduction in fatality levels over the past 20 years.

Key Findings

Some 1.25 million people die each year as a result of unsafe roads. Traffic deaths and serious injuries impose huge social and financial costs, particularly in lowand middle-income countries, where 90 percent of deaths occur. This report provides guidance for policymakers on how to develop a context-specific Safe System–based road safety strategy. It draws on a review of evidence-based literature, interviews with sector experts, statistical analysis, and the authors’ experience working with cities.

The Safe System approach requires a shift in responsibility from the people using roads to the people designing them. It is a systemic approach that integrates core management elements and action areas to create a safe mobility system. This report describes the components of the approach and presents evidence on its life-saving impact. Analysis of traffic fatalities in 53 countries conducted for this report finds that countries that have adopted a Safe System–based approach to road safety achieved both the lowest rates of fatalities and the largest reduction in fatalities over the past 20 years.