Reparing infrastructure is important to get people to work, an efficient transport system means that people get travel easily and get to where they need to go without hinderance. However, a good road infrastructure system also means safer roads as long as safety is put on the agenda when repairing roads.
In his State of the Union address, President Obama launched a "Fix-It-First" program to repair aging infrastructure and put people to work. Obama has proposed infrastructure investment many times before, and always with a heavy tilt toward repair and maintenance, but never such an explicit mandate to "fix it first." By keeping existing transportation infrastructure in good condition, officials can save the public from the expense of unnecessary road expansion projects.
There is no doubt that road infrastructure plays a role in the prevention of road crashes. In the United States alone road crashes are said to cost $300bn a year. Fixing roads for safe travel contributes towards road safety but must come hand in hand with a wider road safety systems approach. It must put road safety firmly on the agenda and ensure that commuters are safe on the road.
The characteristics of these components and the interaction between them affect road traffic crashes and the resulting injuries. For example, a person who is driving on a road that is unlit, in a car that has bad brakes, or without wearing a seatbelt is more likely to be seriously injured than someone who is driving on a well-lit road, in a car that is in good condition, and is buckled up.
Human errors are responsible for most traffic crashes, and human errors cannot be completely eliminated. Humans will make mistakes. The other parts of the road traffic system, the vehicle and the road and environment, need to be designed and managed in a way that minimises the risk of injury and death if a crash occurs. For example, crashes that happen on a road where appropriate speed limits are set and enforced are less likely to result in serious injuries.
The Haddon Matrix explains the important of all factors working together to prevent road crashes.
It also helps to look at road traffic injuries using a timeframe lens: before (pre-crash), during, and after a crash (post-crash). For example, in the before-the-crash phase we might think about a person who has fastened a seatbelt or worn a helmet, a vehicle that is in good condition, and roads that follow safety standards. In the during-the-crash phase, the crash-protective design of the vehicle might prevent serious injuries or death. After the crash, the availability of quality emergency medical services might save a person’s life.
If we combine the timeline with the parts of the road traffic system, we get the Haddon Matrix above.
The Matrix is a basic way to understand the factors that contribute to the number and outcome of road traffic crashes and we can use it to think about how fatalities and injuries can be reduced. For example, in addition to telling a child not to run across the road on the way to school (addressing human behaviour in the pre-crash phase), we can work to slow traffic down so much around schools (addressing road environment in the pre-crash phase) so if a child does get hit, the injuries will be less serious.