In September 2020, the United Nations launched the second Decade of Action for Road Safety 2021-30, which includes the ambitious target to reduce by at least 50% the number of road deaths and serious injuries by 2030. Reliable data on deaths and serious injuries, based on harmonised definitions, are needed in each country in order to monitor the development in the number of road casualties, set interim targets and design effective road safety strategies and effective road safety action plans. There is an urgent need for building sustained capacity in low and middle-income countries for developing solid crash data systems. Weak road crash data systems lead to a substantial underreporting of road crashes and casualties. This is an obstacle to the basic monitoring required by the UN target, and it prevents development of appropriate strategies for reducing the number of road deaths and injuries.
About ten years ago, IRTAD and other organisations recommended defining serious injured road crash casualties as hospitalised road users suffering from trauma classified as MAIS3+ on the Abbreviated Injury Scale (AIS). As of today, a handful of countries collect data and assess hospital data on serious injuries using this definition. Experts continue to consider a maximum AIS-based definition as most appropriate. Efforts to improve capacity to assess the number of serious injuries based on MAIS and to harmonise collection methodologies should continue. It is important to keep improving the mapping of injuries from the International Classification of Diseases (ICD) to the Abbreviated Injury Scale. While building this capacity, countries should continue to report serious injury data on the basis of their current national definition (usually hospitalized for more than 24 hours).
Local and national jurisdictions need to set ambitious but realistic road safety targets to guide their road safety strategies towards long-term goals. These targets typically concern the number of road deaths and serious injuries, but can also include safety performance indicators (SPI, KPI). Targets need to be monitored annually through a systematic data collection system and progress assessed both annually and against periodic interim targets.
Targets based on absolute numbers of road fatalities and serious injuries are clear to work with. Setting a target for deaths or serious injuries as a rate (e.g. relative to population or distance travelled) induces a bias as the target depends on two variables. In countries where population grows strongly, the mortality rate may diminish while the number of road casualties continues to increase, giving the wrong indication to policy makers.
Safety performance indicators (SPIs) using data on road infrastructure quality, vehicle characteristics, road user behaviour and post-crash care are a powerful guide to the impact of road safety policies and where further measures are needed. The focus should be on establishing SPIs for the most critical elements, including speed.
The EC and WHO have defined a set of performance indicators, which cover: speeding, drink driving, distracted driving, seatbelt and helmet wearing, infrastructure safety, vehicle safety, and post-crash care. Through the European BASELINE and TRENDLINE projects, efforts are underway to harmonise definitions and data collection processes. These guidelines are useful for all countries and the IRTAD Group is ready to assist countries in their efforts to extend data collection systems to develop performance indicators.
Road safety strategies and programmes need to be evidence-based, with a clear link between risk and interventions. The safe system approach adds new dimensions to road safety policies and road safety data agencies should consider what new indicators may be useful for monitoring progress, particularly in terms of achieving better integrated interventions.
Assessing road safety performance requires normalising crash data in relation to exposure to risk, relating deaths and injuries, for example, to distances walked, driven and cycled. This is also important for benchmarking performance between countries, regions or cities. Methods to collect data on exposure of pedestrians, cyclists and new forms of mobility should be developed and with international cooperation to arrive at harmonized approached to collecting this information worldwide. Relatively few countries currently collect solid exposure data a number of IRTAD members have experience that can inspire others.
Novel data sources, including mobile applications, connected vehicle data or GPS data sources, provide opportunities to collect exposure data (including on walking, cycling and the use of public transport) at low cost. Research is needed to interpret data from these sources reliably and attention should be paid to country specific regulations on the use of personal data.
Growing concern over climate change requires changes in mobility patterns to limit emissions. Walking and cycling in particular need to be supported and facilitated by reducing crash risk exposure. More broadly, exposure data for walking and cycling have become essential as active mobility evolves and its share in overall mobility increases.
New forms of mobility, such as e-scooters, electric bicycles, both shared systems and private vehicles, have experienced considerable growth in recent years, in particular during the Covid crisis. Differentiated data for these modes of transport is necessary to analyse their interaction with other road users and their impact on road safety. IRTAD has started to work on definitions and to include these data in the IRTAD database. All countries will need to consider these definitions and to distinguish these new mobility forms in their data.
Several countries are implementing systematic in-depth crash investigation in the case of fatal crashes. These investigations are important to understanding the circumstances of crashes and contributory factors. The experiences of these countries should be shared with countries starting to implement in depth-investigations.
Regional road safety observatories have already shown their value in fostering international cooperation, knowledge transfer and harmonisation of data. However, they are at an early stage of development and much remains to be done to deliver on their mission to strengthen crash data collection and analysis for policy making through mutual support between national road safety organisations. ITF/IRTAD, WHO, FIA, the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank and other international stakeholders are committed to work together to support the work programme of regional road safety observatories and the improvement of crash data in all countries. IRTAD can play a leading role in facilitating road safety data reviews. WHO will publish in 2023 its fifth global status report on road safety and input from regional road safety observatories and IRTAD Members will be important.