Supporting and Informing Road Safety Policy Across the EU Through a Database of Compatible and Comparable Performance Indicator Measures

Supporting and Informing Road Safety Policy Across the EU Through a Database of Compatible and Comparable Performance Indicator Measures


L Rackliff, Vehicle Safety Research Centre, Loughborough University, UK; M Vis, SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research, NL


This paper describes work to build a pan-European database of road safety performance data.


The prevention of road accidents and injuries has been a major focus for policy makers across Europe for a number of years. In 2003, the European Commission adopted a road safety action programme based on the 2001 white paper, ?European Transport Policy for 2010: A time to decide?. The key feature of the programme was the ambitious target of reducing annual road deaths by 50% by 2010 (EC 2001).

These policy targets have been set against a background of increasing vehicle traffic volumes and, across much of Europe, falling fatalities. According to the Mid-Term Review of the action programme (2006) fatalities across EU25 fell by 18.1% between 2001 and 2005.

However, it could be argued that framing policy in terms of outcomes (for example numbers of casualties, fatalities or accidents) and monitoring success on the basis of changes in these may result in analysis which is over-simplified. This may be particularly true for vulnerable road users, where levels of risk exposure are hard to measure and small changes in behaviour are hard to evaluate, but have long term significance. A complementary approach is that of constructing and monitoring Road Safety Performance Indicators (SPIs). SPIs are measures which are causally related to crashes or injuries, and can be used to describe the level of safety offered by the transport system. Examples of possible SPI measures include levels of impairment in the general driving population, (whether through alcohol, illicit or prescription drugs, or tiredness) rates of use of protective systems (for example, seat belts, bicycle helmets), levels of speeding, or measures of vehicle fleet crashworthiness (for example, using age distribution of the vehicle fleet or EuroNCAP scores). This approach has enjoyed a higher profile recently through initiatives such as the European Transport Safety Council?s Road Safety Performance Index, which ranks European countries according to their performance as measured by a number of different indicators.

However, the availability of data for supporting performance indicator type measures, as opposed to those based on measures of fatality or casualty totals is more limited. Whereas all countries collect fatality, casualty and accident details, fewer have rigorous and transparent methodologies for the collection of data which describe in a more general sense the operation of the road transport system.

This paper describes work undertaken as part of the SafetyNet project to build a European database of such information. SafetyNet is a European Commission supported project, which is developing the European Road Safety Observatory to facilitate the formulation of road safety policy in the European Union. The data contained in the database describes factors such as the contribution of impairment to fatalities, rates of use of protective systems, levels of speeding, use of daytime running lights and the operation of the trauma care system. Data is available for the majority of the EU27 countries (EU25 + Norway and Switzerland) and is generally suitable for the calculation and validation of safety performance indicators.

As well as final figures for a number of important road safety performance variables, the database contains a wealth of metadata, describing the methodologies used to measure, calculate or estimate the final figures, the sampling techniques used and details of any studies of random or systematic errors in the figures. This allows researchers to make informed decisions about whether comparisons between countries are appropriate, and to what extent such comparisons can reflect genuine differences in road safety between countries.

This paper will explore the possibilities that this database opens up for formulating, supporting and monitoring measures to improve road safety across Europe.


Association for European Transport