Saving Lives Together

The Safe System

Image adapted from the International Transport Forum (2016), Zero Road Deaths and Serious Injuries: Leading a paradigm shift to a Safe System

The Safe System principles

A Safe System is based on four guiding principles that inform thinking and policy to manage design and operation of the road network to ultimately eliminate road deaths and serious injuries.
  1. People make mistakes that can lead to road crashes.
  2. The human body has a limited physical ability to tolerate crash forces before harm occurs.
  3. A shared responsibility to prevent crashes resulting in serious injury or death.
  4. All parts of the system must be strengthened to multiply their effects.

The Safe System involves a holistic view of the road transport system and the interactions between all types of road users, roads and roadsides, travel speeds, and safe vehicles.

It recognises that people will always make mistakes and may have road crashes – but the system should be forgiving, and those crashes should not result in death or serious injury.

The Safe System approach to road safety aims to prevent crashes. But when a crash occurs, it lessens the severity of personal injury.

Safe Road Use

icon for safe road use displaying peopleWe accept that people make mistakes and that some crashes will always occur – but this doesn’t mean we have to accept death or serious injury on our roads as inevitable. While a Safe System builds an injury-tolerant road transport system, we must all use it responsibly. By making safe choices we can save lives on our roads.

Through education, enforcement and promoting the Safe System, Towards Zero focuses on influencing and improving road user behaviour. 

icon for safe roads displaying a roadSafe Roads and Roadsides

Safer roads and roadsides are more forgiving to human error, meaning that crashes are less likely to happen and, if they do occur, will have a less severe outcome. 

Towards Zero will focus on: improving safety at intersections; reducing the risk of run-off road crashes through sealing shoulders, installing audible edge lines, removing roadside hazards and installing safety barriers; and expanding the Black Spot and Safer Roads Programs. 

Safe Speeds

icon for safe speed displaying a speedometerSpeed is at the core of the road safety problem. It affects both the risk of being involved in a crash and, more importantly, the subsequent outcomes should a crash occur. 

There is clear evidence that lower speeds would mean fewer crashes, fewer deaths and fewer serious injuries in WA. Research shows speed reduction would be the most successful of all possible initiatives to prevent deaths and serious injuries on our roads. 

icon for safe vehicles displaying a carSafe Vehicles

Safer vehicles play an important role in reducing the likelihood of crash occurring and the severity of crash outcomes. Australian research indicates that if each motorist upgraded their vehicle to the safest in its class, road trauma would immediately drop by between 26 and 40 per cent (Newstead, 2004).



The Safe System

The Safe System aims to prevent crashes.
But if a crash occurs, it lessens the severity of personal injury.


Safe Vehicles

Road Users

Roads and Roadsides


Safe Vehicles

Safety features for vehicles:

  • 4 or 5 star safety rating
  • Autonomous Emergency Braking (AEB)
  • Electronic Stability Control (ESC)

Safety features for motorcycles:

  • Anti-Lock Braking (ABS)
  • Protective gear for riders

Road Users

  • Drive safely and don’t take risks
  • Don’t drink and drive
  • Don’t be a distracted driver
  • Wear a seatbelt
  • Don’t drive tired
  • Know the road rules
  • Ensure you hold appropriate licence

Roads and Roadsides

  • Roadside barriers
  • Audible edge-lines
  • Median strips (separating roads travelling in opposite directions)
  • Appropriate speed limits
  • Intersections replaced with roundabouts


  • Don’t exceed the speed limit
  • Drive to the conditions (reduce speed in areas with bad weather, low visibility or poor road conditions)
  • Understand stopping distance and how this varies with the speed travelled

Exploring the layers of the Safe System

The below website illustrates how the layers within the safe system work together to keep all road users safe.