Safe System Approach to Road Safety

The Safe System

The safe system approach system acknowledges that the human body is vulnerable and needs protecting.

The focus is on protecting people so that if they are involved in a crash, they won’t be killed or seriously injured, no matter how they travel (walk, drive, ride, cycle).

Importantly, the safe system approach changes the focus from blaming those who use the roads to viewing the road transport system as a whole, where the responsibility for reducing risk is 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.

Local Government and the Safe System

As system designers within the safe system framework, Local Governments have a strategic and operational road safety role as road managers, planning authorities and fleet managers, in addition to their community development and leadership roles.

Local Governments are crucial partners in the translation of safe system principles into practice, and WALGA is in a strong position to positively influence and work with the sector to build support and local capacity that contributes to the collective road safety effort.

Safe System Guiding Principles

Creating a safe system depends heavily on understanding and implementing these guiding principles:

  1. The limits of human performance: we all make mistakes and we all need to acknowledge the limits of our capabilities.
  2. The physical limits of human tolerance to violent forces: we are physically vulnerable when involved in a traffic crash.
  3. Shared responsibility: this means all of us take an individual and shared role in road safety.
  4. A forgiving road system: so that when crashes do happen, deaths can be avoided and injuries minimised.
  5. Increased use of public transport. 

More specifically, the WALGA RoadWise Program has developed the Principles for Managing Road Safety in Local Government which are a set of principles designed to guide and support Local Governments in embracing the safe system approach to road safety.

The principles were developed using a consensus process which involved an expert panel from the Local Government sector, together with local, national and international road safety professionals.

Essentially, the principles provide direction and context with which to formulate strategies, plans and activities to improve road safety outcomes consistent with international best practice. The principles build on past experience, work to add value to future activities and offer guidance to Local Governments in pursuit of innovation and effectiveness in the way they manage road safety.


For further information, please download an electronic copy of the Principles for Managing Road Safety in Local Government booklet by visiting the Products and Services page or contact your local Regional Road Safety Advisor.

Safe System Fact Sheets

Two fact sheets are available for download which explore both Vision Zero and the safe system approach to road safety. Both resources can be downloaded from Products and Services page.


Vision Zero

How can your Local Government get involved?

For more information about the safe system approach and how your Local Government can integrate safe system principles into the way the local road network is managed, contact your Regional Road Safety Advisor.