Barriers to road safety and potentials for improvement: The case of Norway

Terje Assum

Problem

In road safety, the objective is clear, zero fatalities and zero severe injuries, i.e. the Vision Zero. While we already have the knowledge required to realise this objective, we still have not been able to do so. Why? What is the problem? Norway is among the five countries in the world with the lowest number of road fatalities per million inhabitants, a situation, at least to some degree, due to the high number of road-accident countermeasures implemented. However, many more are needed, if we are to realise the Vision Zero. Why are some countermeasures implemented and others not or only partially? As an objective, road safety is not controversial. Still, it can conflict with other objectives such as the mobility and personal freedom visible in money spent on safety vs. other objectives or in the implementation of safety measures reducing other objectives. When effective road-safety measures are insufficiently implemented or not at all, other concerns take higher priority. What are these other concerns or barriers to road safety? Is there potential for improvement?

Methods

The relevant literature and political documents were searched and studied, and a list of 25 examples of inadequate implementation was compiled. An interview guide was developed, based on the literature, official documents and the list of examples. 16 stakeholders in the field have been interviewed.

Results

Analyses of the material and the interviews revealed nine barriers to the implementation of road-safety measures and eight areas where there was some road-safety potential, corresponding well to seven more theoretical factors. The key barrier was found to be low political priority, especially in the justice sector. A main potential for improved road safety in Norway is the Vision Zero approved by Parliament as the basis for road-safety policy. Most barriers are surmountable or can even be turned into potentials. The number of road fatalities could approach zero, if there is a sufficiently strong political will to this end.

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