Asset management: key element for road safety
Safety is a major contributor on social impact in road infrastructure. In fact, it holds a significant share of the potential benefits included in the Cost-Benefit Analysis (CBA) of road projects and therefore, it plays a key role on the decision making process in infrastructure investment and social feasibility thereof. It is particularly important in the development of road projects in emerging economies with a high number of brownfield projects (rehabilitation and upgrading) given their higher accident rates the road network rehabilitation needs with its corresponding highly valuable potential savings in injuries and fatalities.
While human factor is still the element with most impact in the road safety, infrastructure and vehicle condition it very related with the overall safety. Therefore, the approach to a safety action plan includes different perspectives in order to integrate all the levers that can be activated by the Administration.
Figure 1. Impact of main factors affecting road safety
Figure 2. ALG’s framework on road safety
Infrastructure factors are mostly triggered by the combination of infrastructure flaws and human errors (27% of the accidents), and accident rate drastically reduces with road quality increases.
Figure 3. Correlation between road quality and accident rate
Source. ALG analysis., World Economic Forum, WHO
The correlation accidents and road quality shows that those road networks with high standards and efficient maintenance strategies (periodic maintenance, routine maintenance and blackspot management) are capable of significantly improve safety levels. Hence, Master planning, Maintenance & operations and Blackspot management are the key elements to improve Infrastructure factors related to safety.
The definition of design standards is the first step to create a well-designed road network capable of offering good service levels while minimizing safety hazards. Therefore, the road network must be structured hierarchically (freeways, arterials, collectors, local roads,…), taking into account the following factors: road context: urban areas, weather, orography, accessibility…) and traffic (volume/AADT, share of heavy vehicles, congestion, typical trip purpose, etc.)
The implementation of the technical design standards for each road type implies the rehabilitation and improvement of existing roads and the upgrading of new roads technical characteristics including (non-exhaustive): alignment, cross-section, accesses, and safety elements,
Maintenance & operations
Appropriate road maintenance is key for maintaining road safety level. It is carried out by defining maintenance plans developed as a constant process involving not only the execution of corrective works but also the monitoring of the asset condition, evaluation of data and rational decision making to optimize resources usage and better respond to each potential hazard. Road operations include road surveillance, traffic management, congestion events management, among others and allows not only mitigating risks but also the reduction of accident consequences.
Figure 4. Road maintenance planning & operations framework
The resources and funds available for the operation and maintenance must be guaranteed for the sustainability of road safety levels. This way, it is key to establish the adequate finance structures (public funds, Performance-Based contracts, private sector concessions, etc.) to ensure the long-term economic feasibility of the road network.
In general, most accidents are concentrated in specific locations of the road network. Blackspot management allows taking a reactive response to these identified risks by means of ad-hoc solutions. For this, a constant process of safety performance monitoring and implementation of remedial actions is required.
Figure 5. Methodological process of blackspot management & illustrative identification and solution thereof
Some examples of mitigation actions are the construction of pedestrian focused infrastructure (segregated spaces, level crossings, improved signaling and traffic lights, etc.), alignment improvement of road assets (visibility sufficiency, town bypasses, etc.) and additional elements of infrastructure (road expansions, lighting, patch working, etc.).
Human and Vehicle factors
Strategies focused on reducing the incidence of human and vehicle factors are based on regulation and law enforcement.
The objective of Regulation is to align road user behavior and the characteristics of vehicles with the actual safety standards shaped by the traffic characteristics and the road infrastructure context:
- Human factors
- Driver condition: drug and drink limits, sanctions for lack of attention due to cell phone, etc.
- Pedestrians, two and three wheelers traffic: lane segregation, pedestrian crossings, etc.
- Land use regulation: exclusion of usable land near highways, advertisement regulation, etc.
- Maximum speed definition
- Vehicle factors
- Vehicle safety standards definition: minimum safety standards requirements identification
- Mandatory vehicle revision: periodic inspections needed for circulation
- Vehicle fleet national renewal plans: tax imposition to non-compliant vehicles with the regulation, economic incentives for vehicle acquisition
The implementation of the established regulation must be carried out in parallel with law enforcement to ensure users comply with the defined standards.
Conclusion & the importance of asset management
Road safety must be included in Road Master Planning, which requires efficient road design, maintenance and the definition and enforcement of regulation. For this, road asset management plays a key role in optimizing resources and ensuring the efficiency of the aforementioned elements.
The objective of road asset management is to maximize the economic benefits by minimizing the sum of all involved stakeholders costs. Therefore, road asset management looks not only at cost from the road entities point of view, but also at the user road transport costs.
Thanks to this, the decision making process of safety strategies implementation can be rationalized and carried out through constant monitoring of the road (traffic, road condition, external factors, etc.) what is the base for evaluation of safety performance and improvement thereof with the available funding.
ALG and our experience in Road Safety
ALG has an extensive experience in road safety with projects in several geographies (Europe, Latam, Africa and Middle East ). The value-added services offered by the company are unique for our clients as it cover a wide spectrum:
- Road safety audits,
- Institutional assessment and regulation analysis,
- Policy and safety strategy definition
- Safety data monitoring including state of the art technologies (business intelligence, big data, etc.) for blackspot identification and analysis of risk factors
About the authors
César Valero holds a MSc. in Civil Engineering and an MBA, and is a Partner at ALG. firstname.lastname@example.org
Lluís Colomés holds a BSc in Civil Engineering and MSc in Transport and Business Management, and is a Sr. Consultant at ALG. email@example.com
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