In Australia, a Safe System approach to road safety has been adopted which recognises that humans, as road users are fallible and will continue to make mistakes, and that the community should not penalise people with death or serious injury when they do make mistakes. In a Safe System, therefore, roads (and vehicles) should be designed to reduce the incidence and severity of crashes when they occur. The Safe System approach requires, in part (Australian Transport Council 2006):
- designing, constructing and maintaining a road system (roads, vehicles and operating requirements) so that forces on the human body generated in crashes are generally less than those resulting in fatal or debilitating injury.
- improving roads and roadsides to reduce the risk of crashes and minimise harm: measures for higher-speed roads including dividing traffic, designing ‘forgiving’ roadsides, and providing clear driver guidance. In areas with large numbers of vulnerable road users or substantial collision risk, speed management supplemented by road and roadside treatments is a key strategy for limiting crashes.
- managing speeds, taking into account the risks on different parts of the road system.
Road designers should be aware of and through the design process actively support the philosophy and road safety objectives covered in the Guide to Road Safety (Austroads 2006 – 2009). The philosophy and objectives are as relevant to pedestrian and cyclists paths as they are to roads in general.