Safe System Approach

The safe system approach to road safety is a holistic view which provides a framework to assess, guide and improve travel safety. At the core of this is the need for responsibility for reducing risk to be shared by road users and those who design, maintain and operate all parts of the road transport system.

This approach does not ignore risk taking behaviour, but acknowledges human fallibility and the need for greater allowances for human error. Planning and developing a safe system means looking beyond the standards and towards systematically planning and designing a sustainable and inherently safe road and transport system for all road users.

The National Road Safety Strategy is based on the Safe System approach to improving road safety. This involves a holistic view of the road transport system and the interactions among roads and roadsides, travel speeds, vehicles and road users. It is an inclusive approach that caters for all groups using the road system, including drivers, motorcyclists, passengers, pedestrians, cyclists, and commercial and heavy vehicle drivers.

Key inputs to the safe system are:

Using data, research and evaluation to understand crashes and risks.
Developing road rules and enforcement strategies to encourage compliance and manage non-compliance with the road rules.
Managing access to the road through licensing drivers and riders and registering vehicles.
Providing education and information.
Being open to and seeking innovation.
Developing standards for safe vehicles, roads and equipment.
Good management and coordination.

Four elements of a safe system

Safe Roads
Safe Speeds
Safe Vehicles
Safe People


1. Safe Road

Improving the safety of roads could reduce the number of serious crashes by as much as 40%. Investing in safe system infrastructure improvements will continue to save lives and prevent serious injuries into the future, creating a legacy of an inherently safe road network.

2. Safe Speed

Travel speeds greatly influence the chance of surviving a crash, whatever the cause of the collision. Ensuring that speed limits are appropriate for the standard of the roads and vehicles, and creating environments which support lower travel speeds are important steps in reducing the number of serious crashes.

3. Safe Vehicles

Buying safer vehicles could result in around a third less people being killed or seriously injured in crashes.
Vehicle safety features can help avoid crashes and protect vehicle occupants in the event of a crash.

4. Safe People

While the safe system seeks to build a road transport system that is tolerant to human error, road users still have a responsibility to use it responsibly and legally. Compliant, alert and safety conscious road users play a vital role in preventing crashes.