Road safety: Right of way for Vision Zero

As PTV’s Road Safety Ambassador, Sofia Salek de Braun, is committed to improving road safety worldwide.

Traffic accidents are one of the most frequent causes of death worldwide. Every year around 1.3 million people are killed in road traffic, which corresponds to approximately 3,600 victims per day.  A number that is inevitable?

The traditional approach to road safety assumes that mobility always involves a certain percentage of personal injuries.
According to Sofia Salek de Braun, PTV Solution Director Traffic Safety, one of the greatest challenges in road safety is the fact that people have accepted this large number of road fatalities. “We did a calculation which showed that the number of road fatalities per day is roughly equivalent to the number of passengers in seven fully occupied Boeings 747s,” she says. “Would we simply accept it, if seven planes crashed every day? Probably not!”

The “Vision Zero” approach starts right here. It is based on the ethical principle that no one shall be killed or seriously injured when moving within the transport system. In a nutshell: The endangerment of human life is unacceptable.

“The Safe System approach is based on the fact that man is fallible and can only withstand limited mechanical forces without being injured. Safety is the joint responsibility of all actors in a transport system. Ideally, therefore, all elements should work together in an integrated safety chain, where all players interact with each other and thus avoid accidents – even if one or more elements fail,” explains the Road Safety Ambassador.

It is therefore not only important that policy makers put road safety at the top of their agenda. In order to bring about change, the public needs to be alerted to this issue.
“Especially in developing countries there is a lack of public awareness of the extent of the problem and a low awareness of the real dangers,” explains Sofia Salek de Braun. “In my country, Bolivia, for example, road safety is equated with road safety education.
The road user bears full responsibility. We therefore need a paradigm shift away from the traditional focus on road safety and compliance with the “road traffic regulations” towards a more systematic approach (safe-system). Instead of relying only on public education, training, regulation and enforcement, other variables need to be taken into account, such as land use and mobility planning in order to reduce dependence on vehicles and promote safe, healthy and environmentally friendly means of transport; comprehensive speed management to establish safe speed limits; an intersection design that allows people to cross roads safely; road planning that takes human error into account; safe vehicle design and technology; better coordination and quality of emergency response and care after accidents. This requires a change of mindset in many countries.”

In Bolivia, the PTV expert has been committed to improving road safety since 2016 and has drawn up a road safety charter with various authorities and institutions.

“Road safety is a collective commitment and can only be improved if we all work together. This can be seen very clearly in the project in Bolivia. We were able to make a lot of difference there because everyone was pulling in the same direction,” she says. “For the first time in Bolivia, members of national, regional and local governments sat down at the table with representatives from the police, universities, industry, media and voluntary organisations. The resulting action plan is currently being implemented step by step.”

Sofia Salek de Braun will present the case example in her lecture “Mobilizing Multi-Stakeholder Actions for Road Safety – a case example from Bolivia” at the ITF Open Stage Café at the World Transport Forum in Leipzig on 25 May at 10.30 a.m.

This post is also available in: Italian