The need for a systems theory approach to road safety

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In other hazardous complex socio-technical systems in society, e.g. nuclear power and aviation, systems-theoretical assumptions are considered a promising way to better understand and manage safety. In this paper, two fundamental approaches to road safety were assessed in the light of a systems theory approach. One approach, is based on a premise where individual road-users are solely responsible when crashes occur. In that case countermeasures are aimed at altering the behavior of the road-user in order to adapt him/her to the road transport system. The other approach, the so-called zero-tolerance position, or Vision Zero approach, to road safety is built around two axioms; the system must be adapted to the psychological and physical conditions and limitations of the human being and the responsibility for road safety must be shared between the road-users and the designers and professional operators of the system. It was found that the most important determinants of systems theory are basically not present in the road-user approach. However, even if the Vision Zero approach clearly takes step towards systems theory, it does leave room for articulating even more features of systems theory. (C) 2009 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.


  • Peter Larsson
  • Sidney Dekker
  • Claes Tingvall
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Sidor (från-till)1167-1174
TidskriftSafety Science
StatusPublished - 2010
Peer review utfördJa