This project has developed the SUNflower approach, originally used to assess Sweden, Great Britain and the Netherlands, for comparing safety programmes and records between countries. The approach has been applied to nine countries, adding three Central European countries (the Czech Republic, Hungary and Slovenia) and three Southern European countries (Portugal, Greece and Spain, and additional to this the autonomous region of Catalonia) to the three original SUN countries. The topics covered have been increased.
The SUNflower approach is a data-driven approach in which the safety status of a country (region) is described and compared (benchmarked) with other countries (regions), developments over time are understood in order to identify strong and weak points of a country (region) as a basis to learn from each other and to speed up road safety improvements.
Over the period from the early 1980s to the present, all countries in SUNflower+6 have improved in terms of mortality rate (fatalities per head of population), fatality rate (fatalities per number of motorized vehicles) and fatality risk (fatalities per number of kilometres travelled). For two countries the path to improvement involved an initial increase in mortality rate (the Czech Republic and Hungary). These occurred at times of political change and rapid increase in motorization. Improvements in all nine countries followed a trend of exponential improvement, that is to say a constant improvement rate (percentage). However, differences in improvement pace can be observed between the countries or between different time periods. In general, countries starting from higher levels of mortality and fatality rates have made more rapid progress in reducing these rates than the countries which already had lower rates at the beginning of the period. The nine countries are still separated by a factor of almost three in mortality rate and a factor of almost five in fatality rate. The general shape of the improvement curve is similar ('exponential'), but the ratio between personal safety (mortality rate) and traffic safety (fatality rate) is still quite different between the countries. Sweden, Britain and the Netherlands are virtually the same. If the group of countries that are currently worse than these three follow their most recent trend, their mortality rates will remain significantly higher if their fatality rates are similar to the current rate in the SUN countries. Further research is recommended to understand the factors influencing these developments.
The casualty toll observed in different countries differs fundamentally in the modal split, as individual modes have very different risk levels and the differences of road network design, as different road types have different risk levels. This results in significant differences in collision matrices between countries. It is not yet obvious whether all countries are lying on the same overall fatality rate curve over time but the observed differences suggest that countries follow their own improvement curve or learning curve.
A substantial part of the differences between countries in both fatality rates and fatality numbers may result from the size of the different road user groups in each country and their interactions with other traffic and with network configuration. Quantifying these effects is not easy. Estimates in the report suggest that they might explain, for example, up to half the difference in car occupant fatality rate between Sweden and Britain, and most of the difference in pedestrian fatality rates between the SUN countries. Further research is needed to explore this issue more fully.
On the basis of current trends the majority of the nine countries are unlikely to contribute their “share” of the European fatality reduction target for 2010. Despite encouraging reductions in 2004 in Sweden, Great Britain and the Netherlands, it is unclear whether these can be sustained over a long period. The contribution from the three Central countries is uncertain and may be small. The Southern countries of Greece, Portugal, and Spain (including Catalonia) are making progress towards this ambition, but more needs to be done to ensure that progress is sustained and that best practice is more widely adopted.
Comparing policies and performances in relation to specific safety topics the following results can be presented:
- Drinking and driving safety problems continue to cause concern, although all nine countries report good progress on this subject. A 'hard-core' problem still persists and requires additional policies. All nine countries have sound legislation, although different legal BAC levels are used. In all countries but one (the UK) random breath tests are carried out and the number of these tests increased considerably over the years. Significant differences between the countries can be observed when it comes to sanctions and punishments and rehabilitation of convicted drivers. BOB-campaigns (designated driver) are used broadly in SUNflower+6 countries. Discussions on the introduction of 'alcohol interlocks' are taking place in several countries, as is the topic of how to prevent driving after taking drugs and alcohol.
- Seatbelts are a very important way of reducing injuries and fatalities in crashes and legislation and enforcement are the key components to increase wearing of seatbelts by all car occupants. In all SUNflower+6 countries it is compulsory for drivers, front seat passengers and rear seat passengers to wear seatbelts, and also children to be restrained. Belt wearing increased over the last decades, but usage rates show that there is still room for improvement. All countries should formulate goals on seatbelt wearing close to 100% wearing rates.
- Speed management: all SUNflower+6 countries continue to experience serious problems of vehicles exceeding speed limits. In terms of fatalities this may well be of a similar magnitude to the drink-driving problem. Speed management requires a very integrated approach in which speed limit setting given the road and traffic conditions, good road design (design consistency and continuity), large scale enforcement, ITS application, raising public awareness and acceptance of measures are the central elements. Here lies a challenging task ahead for all SUNflower+6 countries.
- Pedestrians and cyclists: impressive reductions can be observed in the number of fatalities among pedestrians and cyclists in all SUNflower+6 countries during the last decades, although these categories still run a relatively high risk. The explanations for these improvements are not well documented and studied. Only some general indications can be given here: reduced exposure to risks, safer pedestrian and cyclist environment, better managed speeds, improved skills and behaviour etc.
- Powered two-wheelers run a relatively high risk, especially when young riders are involved. In most SUNflower+6 countries motorcyclists are the dominant factor here, in some other countries mopeds are also important. More powered two-wheelers on the road, so more exposure to risk, is the main driving force behind this growing problem. Improving helmet wearing is a simple and effective measure. But also attempts should be made to enable powered two-wheelers better share road space with other transport modes. Finally, more discipline is needed for those who violate legislation and police enforcement is instrumental in achieving this.
- Young drivers: all countries continue to have high proportions of young driver fatalities experiencing relatively high risks, and no measures appear to have been particularly effective in reducing them. This group appears to be affected less by general safety improvements than other groups. A coordinated approach is required involving education, training, licensing, enforcement, publicity, use of technology and other road safety measures.
- Implementation: effective and efficient safety policies need strong governmental support and clear guidelines set and budgets provided for local authorities.
Safety outcomes and performance indicators in the different countries are affected by many factors. The report explores ways of presenting this information to help understand how the interaction between these factors leads to the differences in outcomes. Simple one factor bar charts cannot be used to do this. We have developed an approach that seeks to define a “footprint” for each country, built around the different levels in the safety pyramid underpinning the SUNflower methodology.
Two levels of footprint schemes have been developed: a detailed footprint scheme and a summary footprint scheme. Examples are given of using this to compare a country against a reference safety level, comparing development over time within a country, and comparing performance in pairs of countries. A prototype expert system has been developed to enable users to carry out chosen comparisons. It is recommended that this tool should be further elaborated by applying it under practical conditions.
Specific recommendations are made for individual countries and for actions by the Commission. These are discussed in more detail in the reports on the three country groups.