System theory and safety models in Swedish, UK, Dutch and Australian road safety strategies

Publisher's full text
B. P. Hughes
Torbjörn Falkmer

Road safety strategies represent interventions on a complex social technical system level. An understanding of a theoretical basis and description is required for strategies to be structured and developed. Road safety strategies are described as systems, but have not been related to the theory, principles and basis by which systems have been developed and analysed. Recently, road safety strategies, which have been employed for many years in different countries, have moved to a 'vision zero', or 'safe system' style. The aim of this study was to analyse the successful Swedish, United Kingdom and Dutch road safety strategies against the older, and newer, Australian road safety strategies, with respect to their foundations in system theory and safety models. Analysis of the strategies against these foundations could indicate potential improvements. The content of four modern cases of road safety strategy was compared against each other, reviewed against scientific systems theory and reviewed against types of safety model. The strategies contained substantial similarities, but were different in terms of fundamental constructs and principles, with limited theoretical basis. The results indicate that the modern strategies do not include essential aspects of systems theory that describe relationships and interdependencies between key components. The description of these strategies as systems is therefore not well founded and deserves further development.

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