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How to leverage safe system design to encourage safe road user behaviour?


A key role of transport infrastructure is to facilitate and support the safe movement of road users. 

The traditional method of road design is evolving from a mindset that placed responsibility for safety on the road user to a safe system approach. This approach assigns greater responsibility to designers, builders and managers of the road network to provide a safe environment and consider the road network as a significant contributor to crashes. 

The safe system approach is based on fundamental safety principals aimed at eliminating death and serious injuries. To achieve this goal, the safe system approach places a heightened focus on:

  • Safe roads and roadsides that need to be designed and operated in a manner that is predictable and forgiving of mistakes.

  • Safe operating speeds that suit the function and level of safety of the road.



To achieve this outcome, all road users need to be considered when designing or upgrading infrastructure by leveraging the following principle: 

  • Roads and the broader street environment should be designed with the needs of the most vulnerable users first, and then progress through the hierarchy to the safety needs of the least vulnerable users.


Design therefore needs to be developed with the safety needs of pedestrians, cyclists, motorcycles, cars and heavy vehicles in that order. This ensures that appropriate function, speed, road space allocation, and design features are considered to deliver the most appropriate safety outcomes.

This approach is critical in planning new roads, and whilst the challenges of striking the right balance are more pronounced when retrospectively reviewing safety in existing networks, the benefits of delivering the right safety outcome in existing networks are worth pursuing.


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About Impact

Impact delivers Traffic and Transport Engineering solutions through a unique 'Inspiring Possibilities' approach. Impact brings you a premium service that is delivered through three specialist offerings: Land Use Planning, Construction Management and Event Management. Impact's offer is extended to built environment professionals and delivers better outcomes and longer term partnerships.


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