Use safety star ratings to tackle road deaths, say ministers
Millions of deaths and serious injuries could be prevented if roads are built to a minimum ‘three star’ safety performance standard, a major conference in London has heard.
At the conference on ‘A World Free of High Risk Roads’, ministers and road authority CEOs from Australia, England and Mexico announced plans to raise the proportion of their roads meeting at least three star minimum safety performance. Ministers from the US, New Zealand, Cambodia and Sweden also provided endorsements for the use of the star ratings, developed by the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP), as a policy tool to define stratgey and measure progress. The FIA Foundation announced €800,000 in new funding to enable iRAP to provide its star rating protocols ‘free to air’ in a bid to establish star rating of road infrastructure safety performance as a global standard.
Opened by Lord Robertson of Port Ellen, Chairman of the Commission for Road Safety, the conference brought together more than 200 policymakers, road authorities, engineers, NGOs and automobile clubs. The conference, at the National Liberal Club in London, was organised by EuroRAP, iRAP, the UK Road Safety Foundation and the FIA Foundation. The aim of the event – held as part of the 2015 FIA Mobility Conference - was to build momentum for the adoption and use of star rating by governments and development banks, as a contribution to meeting the road safety target in the Sustainable Development Goals.
Lord Robertson told the conference: “If we are serious about achieving the SDG target we must make the case for systemically changing 1 and 2 star roads into 3 and 4 star roads. We can begin with the ten per cent of high volume, high risk roads where half the deaths and serious injuries occur. iRAP has shown that this strategy can be cost effective. But it is more than just good economics. It is a real, far-reaching investment in the health, environmental security and human happiness of this and future generations. So let us use this morning to commit to building the alliances and overcoming the obstacles that stand in the way of progress. Let us commit to this objective of raising ten per cent of the world’s one and two star roads to a minimum three star level by 2020. The prize, if we can reach it, is up to 40 million serious injuries and three and a half million deaths prevented over the next twenty years.”
The event, chaired by UK Road Safety Foundation chairman Lord Whitty, heard from the Minister of Transport for Mexico, Raul Marrieta Cummings; the CEO of Highways England, Colin Matthews; and the Minister of Transport for the State of Victoria, Australia, Luke Donnellan, about their plans to use star rating to guide network improvement and reduce road traffic casualties. Highways England has set a target to ensure that by 2020 90% of travel is on roads with 3 star performance, or better. This is part of the corporation’s goal to reduce fatalities on England’s motorways and highways by 40%. Following assessment of 70,000km of road, Mexico is using star rating to guide a $200 million investment to raise priority sections of road to 3 star. Victoria, where 94% of travel on its national roads is already on 3 star standard infrastructure, is also using star rating as a measurement tool to assist in moving almost all roads to 3 star, and to get 50% of roads to 4 star by 2022. In a message to the conference, Sweden’s Director of Traffic Safety, Maria Krafft, said: “As we introduce safer junctions, safer roadsides and apply innovation in dividing roads, we expect that 75% of travel on the Swedish national road network will achieve 3-stars or better by 2020 and approaching 100% by 2025”. In a video recorded for the conference, US Deputy Secretary of Transportation, Victor Mendez, said: “In the United States our states and safety agencies are now using the star rating system data to innovate safety planning and to help build international momentum in our efforts to help save lives.”
Building on this momentum in high and middle income countries, iRAP CEO Rob McInerney urged greater action to use star rating to identify priorities in developing nations, pointing out that IRAP assessments have found that 70% of roads are 2 star or below for pedestrian safety. With iRAP Chairman John Dawson, Asian Development Bank Transport Adviser Tyrrell Duncan and the World Bank’s Global Head of Road Safety, Soames Job, discussed the potential for establishing star rating as a more widely used policy standard in development projects. The ADB is aiming for at least a 3 star rating for its road projects, and on roads with traffic volume of more than 50,000 vehicles this should be set at a 4 star performance level. Mr Duncan urged donors to do more to support road safety by providing grants to enable development banks to act more flexibly. Soames Job also praised the star rating approach, and highlighted projects where the World Bank is using rating to guide investment. For the ‘Three Star Coalition’, an advocacy group arguing for adoption of star rating as a measurement tool by the World Bank and other development banks, Ernest Loevinhson, Director of the Fund for Global Health, made a call to action for greater engagement with the media and policymakers to raise awareness and commitment to acting on unsafe road infrastructure. The Coalition has recently worked in the US Congress and encouraged more than 40 Senators and Representatives to write to the World Bank.
Jean Todt, the UN Special Envoy for Road Safety, praised the effectiveness of star ratings for developing countries grappling with rising road traffic casualties: “These Star Ratings results tell us about the safety of the world’s roads. They do so separately for traveling by vehicle, by foot, by bicycle and by motorcycle. There is a widely quoted statistic that 88% of roads with high speeds and pedestrians have no footpath. This alone gives us an important insight that we have a problem of management as much as engineering. Many low- and middle-income countries are using this inspection system, and it is helping them to quickly identify the most pressing measures needed on their networks. In my role as the UN Secretary General’s Special Envoy for Road Safety, and FIA President, I will do all I can to support this agenda for safer road infrastructure. The case for adopting the 3-star goal has been well put today.”
Tim Keown, Chairman of the FIA Foundation, closed the conference by announcing significant new support for iRAP of €800,000, over three years, to enable the charity to make its star rating protocols ‘free to air’. Mr Keown said: “This will ensure there is wide understanding that Star Rating protocols are open for anyone to use without charge, subject only to simple rules assuring quality, consistency and sharing of information in the public interest. Over the next 3 years it is anticipated there will be more than adequate capacity to apply the protocols globally in the commercial, not-for-profit and public sectors. We hope the ‘free to air’ commitment will encourage development banks, governments and engineering firms to adopt star rating as a universal safety tool.”