The Safe System Approach is an internationally recognized and successful practice that sets an ethical imperative that it is unacceptable to allow fatal and serious injuries (FSI) to occur on public roads. The goal is to have zero fatal and serious injuries. Rather than focusing on changing human behavior and preventing all collisions, the Safe System Approach refocuses transportation system design and operation on anticipating human errors and reducing impact forces to minimize crash severity and save lives. The Safe System Approach takes into account the safety of all road users, but especially those who are most vulnerable to death or serious harm in the case of a collision, such as bicyclists and pedestrians.

The Safe System Approach is a global movement that has been in place for more than three decades. During the period 1994-2015, countries that implemented the strategy saw significant reductions in mortality, ranging from 50-60% in Australia, the Netherlands, and New Zealand to 60-70% in Sweden. All Safe System pioneer countries made significant efforts to involve, engage, and persuade all stakeholders whose contributions would be required to make a Safe System work.

The Safe System Approach is proven to be cost-effective, with benefits outweighing expenditures by three to four times. It requires strong and enduring leadership to instill a feeling of urgency for change, engage stakeholders successfully, and secure their support for the paradigm shift that prioritizes safety over speed.

This report examines how the Safe System Approach aims to reduce fatal and serious injuries in the USA and globally. The report provides an overview of the principles and elements of the Safe System Approach. Further, it discusses the national FSI trends and zero-death principles in Strategic Highway Safety Plans. Furthermore, the report sheds light on how this approach benefits pedestrians and bicyclists and ensures transportation equity across the system. 

Read full report: Addressing Fatal and Serious Injuries through the Safe System Approach​: A Literature Review, Case Studies and Findings​

For more information on this topic, read our report titled Zero Deaths Initiatives and the Safe System Approach (2022).

New Jersey Bicycle and Pedestrian Resource Center. (2022). Addressing Fatal and Serious Injuries through the Safe System Approach​: A Literature Review, Case Studies and Findings​. Retrieved from