Car speeding along a road, view out of windscreen from vehicle interior

Assessing Risk and Setting Targets in Transport Safety Programmes

  • June 1, 2003

Reduction of risk and consequent death injury and damage is the key objective of policy for transport safety. The systematic assessment of risk, the setting of targets for its reduction in the context of safety strategies, and the monitoring of progress towards such targets are playing an increasing role in the formulation and implementation of
transport safety policy across the modes – road, rail, air and maritime.

Risk assessment ranges from the interpretation of data concerning numerous and frequent occurrences to the estimation of the likelihood of very rare events, combined in each case with the quantification of exposure to risk. Target setting requires forecasting of exposure, levels of risk, and the acceptability and effectiveness of policies and measures for risk reduction, in order to identify targets which strike a balance between challenge, achievability, and public and political acceptability. Monitoring requires tracking not only of the targeted outcomes but also of the ways in which developments in exposure, policy, implementation and external factors differ over the target period from what was anticipated when the targets were set. The context of the processes of risk assessment, target setting and monitoring in relation to safety differs between road, rail, air and maritime transport, and so do the extent to which and the manner in which these processes have been developed.

The purpose of this review is to identify best practice in risk assessment and target setting and the scope for their wider application and further useful development, having regard to relevant experience in Member States of the EU, related developments at the EU level, and the challenges and opportunities presented by enlargement.

Road transport is treated at greatest length both because about 97% of deaths in transport in the EU occur on the roads and because of the already extensive use of target setting in road safety policy. In the other three modes (risk assessment in rail, air and maritime transport), rather similar needs and forthcoming opportunities for addressing the issues at the EU level are identified. The review concludes with a range of recommendations for action by the EU and its agencies supported by counterpart effort in the existing Member States and in due course in the Accession Countries.