The Safe System approach

The Safe System approach aims for a more forgiving road system that takes human fallibility and vulnerability into account. Under a Safe System we design the whole transport system to protect people from death and serious injury.

We accept that:

People make mistakes - We need to recognise that people make mistakes and some crashes are inevitable.

People are vulnerable - Our bodies have a limited ability to withstand crash forces without being seriously injured or killed.

We need to share responsibility - Those who design the road system and those who use the roads must all share responsibility for creating a road system where crash forces don't result in death or serious injury.

We need to strengthen all parts of the system - We need to improve the safety of all parts of the system - roads and roadsides, speeds, vehicles, and road use - so that if one part fails, other parts will still protect the people involved.

Under the Safe System approach, all system designers must share the responsibility for road safety outcomes. System designers include planners, engineers, parents, policy makers, enforcement officers, educators, utility providers, insurers, vehicle manufacturers and importers, the media, fleet managers and many more.

What does a Safe System look like?

When we have a safe road system, everyone will expect a very low road toll and serious injuries will be increasingly rare. All parts of the system will be much safer. For example:

  • roads and roadsides will be safer because transport and urban planning, and road design will accommodate errors; surfaces will be improved and roadside hazards removed or barriers installed
  • speed will be managed to safe levels through more appropriate limits, and there will be smarter self-explaining roads and roadsides that show people what safe speeds mean
  • vehicles will increasingly have advanced safety features, including electronic stability control, front and side curtain airbags and head restraints, collision avoidance systems and better maintenance of tyres and brakes
  • road users will be alert and aware of the risks and drive or ride to the conditions; there will be more in-vehicle technologies to give drivers safety feedback, ensure alertness and reinforce compliance with the road rules.

The difference between life and death

The Safe System approach is a proven way to save lives and reduce serious injuries. Originally developed in Sweden, it has been applied in New Zealand since 2010 and is helping to drive down the rate of death and injury on our roads. But there is still much more to do. Every year far too many Kiwi families are torn apart by serious road trauma.

The Safe System approach helps us to see that it doesn't have to be like this. It recognises that people make mistakes and are vulnerable in a crash. It reduces the price paid for a mistake so crashes don't result in loss of life or limb. Mistakes are inevitable - deaths and serious injuries from road crashes are not.

Learn more about the Safe System approach by watching this short video below, and then share it with your colleagues, friends and family. Together we can make a difference! You can also access the trailer and video links via our Resources page.