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Safe System Approach 101

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Herald Sun crash

Course overview

We all make mistakes on roads, even when abiding by road rules and being responsible, which can result in near misses or crashes. In a crash, the human body is vulnerable and has limited tolerance to typical impact forces, which can result in death and injuries.
Federal, State and Territory governments in Australia have adopted Vision Zero as an ambitious target that aims for no one to be killed or seriously injured on our roads. It is recognised that Vision Zero cannot be achieved without an integrated, holistic approach being adopted, where the road network is viewed as a system that comprises several elements.
This thinking is known as the Safe System approach. It aims to make all elements of the system safer and forgiving of errors, giving a combined positive outcome. It also recognises that if one element in the system fails, the others will reduce the likelihood of road users being killed or seriously injured.
The Safe System comprises the following five elements:
  • Safe roads and roadsides
  • Safe speeds
  • Safe vehicles
  • Safe road users
  • Post-crash care

A key objective for road managers is to ensure that when driver errors occur, they do not result in high-severity outcomes. It is also recognised that a shared responsibility is essential in reaching this objective, i.e. road users, designers and managers must play their part.
To ensure the Safe System is embedded in all aspects and stages of the transport infrastructure life cycle, system designers and operators, including engineers, planners, lawmakers, enforcement agencies, post-trauma crash care workers and others, must develop a sound understanding and appreciation of the Safe System approach.
Participation in this course supports the national aim of reducing deaths and injuries on Australian roads to half by 2030 and zero by 2050.

Level: Foundation

One day

Delivery method:
In person / Online



Event contact

  +61 3 9881 1555

Meet the speakers


__David McTiernan


David McTiernan

National Leader Transport Safety, Safer Smarter Infrastructure


Emily McLean

Portfolio Leader, Infrastructure Safety Management


Ali Raza

Principal Professional, Safer Smarter Infrastructure
Paul Hillier circle


Paul Hillier

Principal Professional Leader, Transport Certification
  • Scope
  • Learning outcomes
  • Table of Contents
  • Learning formats
  • Target Audience


This course introduces the basic principles of the Safe System approach in reducing deaths and serious injuries (FSI; Fatal or Serious Injury) from road crashes. This workshop is not intended to turn participants into Safe System experts but provide a solid understanding of the approach. The workshop will set the scene by highlighting Australia's historical and existing road safety road trends. Course participants will gain an understanding of road

trauma in Australia, including road deaths and hospitalisation, and compares it to that of other countries. The concepts presented in the workshop will be reinforced through an interactive session to discuss participants' views and understanding of the Safe System approach. This will also highlight the importance of embedding the Safe System principles in their area of work, designs or projects. The workshop closes by providing useful advice on where to find further practical guidance and learning, including Austroads publications, jurisdiction websites and other practitioner resources.

Learning outcomes

LO1 Familiarisation with the evolution of road safety in Australia and current road safety problems.

LO2 Develop an appreciation of various road safety techniques and how they integrate with the road infrastructure life cycle to create a safer environment for road users.

LO3 Understand the basic concept and principles of the Safe System.

LO4 Overview of the shared responsibility concept and how road managers and practitioners play an important role in embedding Safe System principles in the early stages of projects.

LO5 Develop an appreciation of the safe people element of the Safe System, including road user errors, crash statistics and measures to improve road users' behaviour.

LO6 Develop an understanding of the safe roads element of the Safe System in reducing road trauma and creating a more forgiving road environment.

LO7 Develop an appreciation of different reactive, proactive and predictive road safety tools to create a safe road environment for all road users.

LO8 Develop an understanding of the safe speed element of the Safe System and its role in reducing crash severity and avoiding a crash.

LO9 Develop an appreciation of the safer vehicles element to reduce road trauma on Australian roads.

LO10 Develop an understanding of effective post-crash care in reducing the rate of road deaths in the event of a crash.

Table of Contents

The workshop comprises seven sessions over approximately eight hours, with a 15-minute break between every session and a lunch break of 45 minutes, providing opportunities for discussion and networking.

The seven sessions are:

Session 1: Road safety in Australia · Evolution in road safety since 1970 · Where Australia stands internationally · Road safety in the last decade · Scale of road trauma in Australia · National road safety strategy and its target

Session 2: Introduction to the Safe System approach · How we arrived at the Safe System – traditional and recently emerging concepts including Vision Zero · Road safety techniques within the infrastructure life cycle · Human fallibility and vulnerability · Introduction to the Safe System approach · Safe System principles · Shared responsibility concept · Conventional and safe system approach to road safety

Sessions 3–6: Safe System core elements · Overview of the following elements of the Safe System: Safe people (session 3) Safe roads (session 4) Safe speeds (session 5) Safe vehicles (Session 6) Post-crash care (session 6) · Video to highlight the Safe System road environment

Session 7: Interactive discussion on the Safe System Approach · Participants views on the importance of the Safe System approach to reducing FSI crashes. · Participants views on the alignment of existing practices with the Safe System approach. · How participants will embed Safe System principles in their work area or projects. · Participants’ key takeaways from the course..

Learning formats

  1. In person or online workshop
  2. Online quiz to confirm learning outcomes achieved

Target Audience

Road and Transport Owner and Managing Agencies

  • Asset Management and Planning roles
  • Project Management and Design roles
  • Traffic, Transport and Road Safety roles
  • Portfolio Directors and Asset Owners
  • Construction Management roles
  • Road Safety Grants Evaluation roles
  • Policy and Education roles

Contractors, Developers, Consultants and others

  • Traffic and Transport specialists
  • Designer and Planning roles
  • Construction and Project Manager roles
  • Development and Town Planning roles
  • Emergency services and Post-trauma Crash Care workers
  • Behavioural Scientists
  • Vehicle Designers and Manufacturers