Cost effective EU transport safety measures
This ETSC Review gives a cross-modal analysis of cost-effective measures aiming to improve transport safety. However, since road transport represents by far the greatest transport safety problem in all European countries with around 97% of all transport fatalities occurring in the road sector, particular emphasis is given to road transport.
For the road mode the results of a cost-benefit analysis of five ‘promising’ road safety measures ready for introduction by the European Union are presented:
- Daytime running lights (DRL)
- Random breath testing: best practice guidelines
- Audible seat belt reminders
- Use of EuroNCAP as an incentive for developing safer cars
- Road safety engineering: best practice guidelines
The costs of a measure are understood as the social costs of all means of production (labour and capital) that are employed to implement the measure; therefore they will be called implementation costs. The effects of a measure are understood as any change in social welfare (positive or negative) that is the result of that measure (intended or not). The aim of a measure is to decrease the damage caused by road accidents which means that the effects to take into account first are the safety effects.
Daytime running lights (DRL)
This countermeasure is to be understood as a legal obligation for all motor vehicles in the 15 EU-countries to drive with low beam headlights or (but more as an exception) with special DRL lamps.
The analysis shows that the introduction of DRL in European countries could lead to an annual reduction of 2,800 fatalities. The calculation of the cost/benefit ratio also illustrates a favourable result: the costs of DRL are considerably lower than the benefits (value 1 : 4.4). Furthermore, the cost/benefit ratio could be even more favourable if special DR-lamps equipped with economical bulbs were installed, in which case it would increase to 1 : 6.4.
Random breath testing: best practice guidelines
This measure is to be understood as a set of “best practice” guidelines for the responsible police authorities in EU member states. Such guidelines should aim at substantially and permanently increasing the current level of enforcement in the area of drink-driving. Furthermore, they should promote particular enforcement strategies that have proven to be effective.
This study shows that increasing RBT to a frequency of 1 test per 16 inhabitants (current EU average) in every member state will improve road safety considerably (annually 2,000 – 2,500 fatalities) and in a very cost-effective way. However, it also points out that this only constitutes a first step of an effective policy against drink-driving. There is plenty of space for a further increase of RBT. Furthermore, part of the current testing is not done randomly and could be transformed into RBT without additional costs. The frequency of 1 in 16 can also be increased considerably.
Audible seat belt reminders
An audible seat belt reminder is a device that gives a sound warning whenever a seat is occupied, but the seat belt is not fastened.
Taking into account injuries as well as fatalities it is shown that the present value of the benefits of requiring audible seat belt reminders for the front seats of cars in the European Union amounts to 66,043 million Euro. The present value of the costs amounts to 11,146 million Euro, giving a cost benefit ratio of 1:6. The benefits of audible seat belt reminders for front seats thus clearly exceed the costs.
Use of EuroNCAP as an incentive for developing safer cars
The European New Car Assessment Programme (EuroNCAP) tests the crashworthiness of new cars with respect to front and side impacts and pedestrian accidents.
Evidence suggests that car manufacturers do monitor EuroNCAP test results closely and seek to improve models that do not perform well. Its beneficial effects are accentuated by the fact that models with an improved crash test performance are not necessarily priced much higher than earlier ones and that EuroNCAP has relatively low operating costs (slightly more than 1 million Euro per year).
While a precise analysis is difficult, the evidence presented in this report does indicate that EuroNCAP is contributing to an improvement in vehicle crashworthiness, likely providing benefits significantly greater than the cost to society of achieving these improvements.
Road safety engineering: best practice guidelines
The essential elements of a systematic approach to road safety engineering are outlined here. As a first step it is necessary to define the elements of the road system that are suitable for safety analysis. Then the distribution of accidents needs to be analysed for a suitable period of time for each set of elements. If there is systematic variation in the number of accidents, a performance function needs to be fitted to identify sources of that variation.
A safety performance function will typically not include the effects of all sources of systematic variation in the number of accidents. Some of the omitted sources of systematic variation in the number of accidents will be factors that are more or less specific to particular locations of the road system. The effects of these factors will be modelled by means of the empirical Bayes method.
Having estimated the expected number of accidents for each element of the road system, the logical next step is to define hazardous road locations. Once this has been done, a road safety audit or a detailed analysis of accidents needs to be conducted. At many hazardous road locations, low cost measures will solve the problem, though a few may need more expensive solutions. Looking at low cost measures which have been introduced in Norway impressive cost-benefit ratios are obtained, often exceeding one to ten. The report concludes that the Norwegian experience should be transferable to other European countries, especially if one bears in mind that Norway is a high-cost country with a comparatively good road safety record.
A proper cost-benefit analysis could not be carried out for these modes given the scarce amount of time and financial resources. Furthermore, cost-benefit analyses are not commonly used in the modes other than road because decisions for the introduction of safety measures are made more on the grounds of practicality and improved system function, whenever the specific safety elements cannot be estimated or quantified. Nevertheless, a short description of measures which in principle are cost-effective will follow.
For rail transport few measures with an obvious safety improving potential can be identified as a result of railways generally being a very safe mode of transport. Not many accidents occur and there has been a constant decrease in the number of fatal accidents over the years.
The principal cost-effective safety measure identified is the installation of barriers on level crossings. However, a full cost-benefit analysis cannot be conducted due to missing data. The study should hence only be seen as tentative.
Furthermore, the following measures are given very brief consideration:
- On-board detectors of heated bearings and axle failures
- Fencing at stations to prevent passengers from taking short-cuts between platforms
- Door improvements to prevent passengers from falling out of moving trains
- Measures to prevent trains from colliding with maintenance vehicles
- Breaking the electric tension over parked railcars
The complex distribution of competences between global, European and national authorities has implications for carrying out cost benefit analyses in the maritime sector. Due to the uncertainties that evolve from such a structure, a CBA does not necessarily qualify as the arch instrument of decision making within maritime safety policy. Consequently, the maritime chapter merely seeks to outline some of the principles which underpin CBAs in the maritime sector. It does so by briefly looking at three measures: a monitoring network based on an Automated Identification System (AIS) along the European coast, the reporting of dangerous goods as well as an Emergency Towing Vessel (ETV).
The above examples illustrate that any cost benefit analysis in the maritime safety sector faces a series of problems, mostly due to the complexity of involved parties. But they also show that CBAs are indeed possible and can quite often provide a fair estimate of the effectiveness of a particular measure. Past experience has shown that global, European and national authorities have reached decisions partly based on the results of CBAs. However, many governments have also passed legislation on measures that were considered “not cost-effective”. This practice shows that CBAs are often just one out of many instruments providing the basis for sound safety policy making.
Still, also within maritime safety, CBAs are a crucially important part of Formal Safety Assessments (FSA) as adopted by the IMO. In order to ensure the use of appropriate data and make possible the consideration of all costs and benefits of a particular measure, maritime authorities have to provide easily accessible databases as well as the resources necessary to conduct a sound analysis.
In the aviation sector there is an increasingly broad consensus on the need to improve safety, such that the absolute number of accidents per year does not increase. This is considered necessary to prevent that increasing numbers of accidents lead to a perception of deteriorating safety and a subsequent decline in demand for air travel. As a consequence, current thinking about safety improvement measures is not necessarily about identifying safety measures with an individual positive return on investment and implementing those, but about identifying the set of safety measures that will together deliver sufficient safety improvement to compensate for traffic growth. If more safety improvement is expected from the identified set of safety measures than is needed to compensate for traffic growth, safety measures are prioritised based on cost benefit considerations. Thus, while the costs of accidents, which are increasing strongly, do play a role in the considerations around safety improvement programmes, these costs do not constitute the main driving force behind the industry wide safety improvement initiatives.
ETSC gratefully acknowledges the contributions of the Chairman and members of ETSC's Cost effective EU transport safety measures Working Party to this review:
Working Party Members
ETSC Working Party Secretary: Mr. Antonio Avenoso
ETSC Working Party Assistant: Mr. Valentin Gerold
ETSC is grateful for the financial support provided by Directorate of Energy and Transport of the European Commission. ETSC also acknowledges the contribution towards the printing and dissemination costs of this review provided by Bombardier Transportation, BP, KeyMed, Railway Safety, Railtrack Group plc, Scania, and Shell International. The contents of this review are the sole responsibility of ETSC and do not necessarily reflect the view of sponsors nor organisations to which research staff participating in the Working Party belong.