Evolution of a holistic systems approach to planning and managing road safety: the Victorian case study, 1970–2015

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Abstract

Background

The Victorian Safe System approach to road safety slowly evolved from a combination of the Swedish Vision Zero philosophy and the Sustainable Safety model developed by the Dutch. The Safe System approach reframes the way in which road safety is viewed and managed.

Methods

This paper presents a case study of the institutional change required to underpin the transformation to a holistic approach to planning and managing road safety in Victoria, Australia.

Results

The adoption and implementation of a Safe System approach require strong institutional leadership and close cooperation among all the key agencies involved, and Victoria was fortunate in that it had a long history of strong interagency mechanisms in place. However, the challenges in the implementation of the Safe System strategy in Victoria are generally neither technical nor scientific; they are predominantly social and political. While many governments purport to develop strategies based on Safe System thinking, on-the-ground action still very much depends on what politicians perceive to be publicly acceptable, and Victoria is no exception.

Conclusions

This is a case study of the complexity of institutional change and is presented in the hope that the lessons may prove useful for others seeking to adopt more holistic planning and management of road safety. There is still much work to be done in Victoria, but the institutional cultural shift has taken root. Ongoing efforts must be continued to achieve alert and compliant road users; however, major underpinning benefits will be achieved through focusing on road network safety improvements (achieving forgiving infrastructure, such as wire rope barriers) in conjunction with reviews of posted speed limits (to be set in response to the level of protection offered by the road infrastructure) and by the progressive introduction into the fleet of modern vehicle safety features.

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