Road Safety: the Trouble

China Street scene, 'bikes and buses'.

with Developing Countries.

I

I

Road Safety.

Costs. 
The Problems.
Conclusions.
Solutions.
The 'Method'.
I
Road Safety.
I
The most recent U.N. statistics show that almost 1.2 million people were killed on the world's roads in 1998, while millions more were permanently, or seriously injured... the vast majority occurring in developing countries where Western-style traffic regulations and controls have proved to be largely ineffective.  This is a problem that is only getting worse, by 2020, road accidents are predicted to become the world's third leading cause of premature death.  [See... Global Road Safety Report: pdf.]
I
There are no ready made solutions which do not involve spending large sums of money.  Governments... especially in the poorer countries... will need to develop their own new, innovative ways of reducing the carnage.  At present... the global cost of road accidents in developing and emerging nations is at least $100 billion a year.  This is more than twice the total aid received from all bilateral and multilateral sources.
I
Controlling the cost of Road Accidents is a problem that no Country can afford to ignore!
I
Although we may describe 'Road Supervisors' as being a 21st. century solution to road safety problems... utilising the power of the Internet.  There is no reason why a similar system, using many of the same principals cannot be adapted for countries with a much lower level of technology and operating with very limited budgets.  This article explains how to target one group [Public buses,] in a limited way.  It basically uses the bus drivers [as Road Supervisors] to make out 'Reports' and uses local Police instead of special 'Review Panels'.    
I
The Internet... makes the process of gathering and disseminating Information much easier, but it can also be done in a limited way using more traditional methods.  Many of the various sections throughout this website have ideas and basic principals which could be adapted to suit local conditions.  Rather than keep going over the same ground we have inserted links to indicate where relevant, more in-depth information can be found.
I
I
General Terms.
As we are not specifically referring to any one country, we shall not try and cover every possible set of circumstances, we will just use the most general terms.  Individual countries know whether the issues mentioned are relevant to them, what their problems are, and their available resources.  These are some of the terms we frequently use.  
I
Public Transport.  In this case we are talking about... city buses: inter-city buses: taxis: and a whole range of smaller mini-bus type vehicles... and three wheeled scooters.  Anyone of these groups could be targeted as a priority.  We shall refer to all these various modes of transport as 'Buses' from here on... unless specifically identifying one of the other groups.  
I
Operators.  Bus companies may be structured in many ways... large State-owned organisations with many depots around a city, each with a depot manager... public companies... private companies of various sizes... groups of owner/operators: but, [the person who is in day to day charge of running the business] we shall refer to as the 'Operator' from here on... unless we do specifically mean the Owners.  
I
Drivers.  The person sitting behind the wheel.  May be paid in a variety of ways... by wage: commission: they may sub-lease a vehicle: or be an owner/operator... but, whatever their financial arrangements... we shall just refer to them all as 'Drivers' from here on.
I
Police and the Authorities... are some form of governmental department which may be involved in the system... as Police: or sometimes separate Traffic Police: the Judiciary: a Dept. of Transport: Central Government: Local Government: or some Licensing Authority.  This will vary from country to country so we cannot be to specific... but from here we shall just refer to them as... the 'Police' and as... the 'Authorities'.
I
I
Costs.
I
Governments frequently lack the political will to tackle the problem of road safety, with complacency at all levels... Politicians: Police: and the Judiciary.  It is generally considered a low priority and something that costs money.  Accidents in the poorer nations are actually an incredible drain on the economy... according to one estimate costing these countries up to 2% of GDP.  Scarce medical and technical resources are used up at the crash site and in hospital... while limited foreign currency is used up importing replacement vehicles and parts. 
I
Finance... of course, is a major concern.  If Governments raise money to improve the situation on the roads, the costs are inevitably passed on to the 'end-users', vehicle owners and public transport passengers.  So political opposition is likely and generally unpopular with members of the public: [until the consequences affect them personally.]  Politicians have to make a calculation about whether it can face off this opposition.  Without a vocal road safety lobby this is unlikely.
I
There have been some successes reported.  South Africa's "Arrive Alive" campaign has reduced the country's traditionally high death toll during the holiday periods by 6%, spending an estimated $200m on the campaign.  Most other developing countries do not have these funds available and road safety has not become enough of a priority for the situation to change in the short term.  They need to become more innovative and develop solutions which do not require such large budgets.  ["Arrive Alive" has now set up a National Traffic Call Centre... where members of the public can volunteer to become "Traffic Observers" who report on a whole range of dangerous and corrupt behaviour... See Arrive Alive - South Africa.]
I
I
The Problems.  
I
The range of Problems and Resources are unique to each individual country and vary enormously.  But, at the same time, many of the problems found in countries with low-moderate incomes, are very similar.  Each of the problems mentioned below could be improved upon, many of them would help in the implementation of any road safety initiatives and to generally uphold standards. 
I
1. Sub-standard Roads.  While good roads may be desirable, poor roads in themselves are not dangerous, it's what drivers do on them that creates the danger.  Whether they are poorly laid out, congested city streets, or single track mountain roads, if everyone obeys the rules and drives appropriate to the conditions there is no reason why it cannot be done in relative safety.  
I
2. Poorly maintained Vehicles.  Poorly maintained vehicles are very dangerous, [particularly when the vehicle is being put under strain: that's when things suddenly break down.]  A lack of funds often means that vehicles are old, overloaded, and in a permanent state of disrepair.  New vehicles are very expensive, so this is not a situation that is going to change in the foreseeable future.    
I
3. Bad Driving.  Public transport is responsible for 60 to 70 percent of accidents in developing countries, with pedestrians being the single biggest group affected.  Often there are large numbers of competing buses trying to pick up and set down passengers at the same bus stops, and rather than wait to pull in to the kerb properly will drop and pick up out in the moving traffic.  This practice invariably leads to a high casualty rate for pedestrians.  Fierce competition and unrealistic journey times also cause drivers to jump red lights, use excessive speed, dangerous overtaking manoeuvres and aggressive behaviour.
I
In the more extreme cases... old decrepit 'Buses' are packed solid, [sometimes with passengers sitting on the roof] and drive along dangerous mountain roads with no safety rails.  In these circumstances the one thing you could still have in your favour would be a responsible, safety conscious driver.  Unfortunately, in to many cases, the driving is also of the worse possible standard, with predictably tragic results.  
I
Public transport... would seem to be the obvious place to start, not only are they the biggest problem but they are also the easiest to keep an eye on.  You know the routes they take, usually the time of their journeys and you can get on the bus and observe their driving skills, [with or without their knowledge.]  Other large groups, especially bike riders and pedestrians are difficult to monitor and control, and they already have a very good incentive for avoiding accidents, they invariably get hurt! 
I
4. Lack of Enforcement.  Most road accidents in developing countries are caused by drivers' conscious violation of the traffic rules.  Traffic rules and regulations are often of the most basic... [i.e. no rules about... seat belts: crash helmets: drink driving: number of passengers allowed: vehicle condition: etc.] but even these are not enforced.  Police often lack vehicles and equipment... have other priorities... or are simply lacking the motivation.  Lack of enforcement leads to more rule breaking... dangerous and irresponsible behaviour becomes ingrained in the 'Road Culture'.  Drink driving: jumping red lights: aggressive overtaking: etc. etc. etc. becomes 'normal'... everyone does it!  
I
5. No Central Registers.  This may not sound like much of a problem, but when there is no central registration system for vehicle ownership or drivers' licences it becomes very difficult to catch up with people after an incident.  Drivers then need to be stopped and dealt with at the time.  As the Police are few in number and rule breaking is endemic... it means the chances of being stopped are very low.  When it comes to enforcement the chances of being caught are much more important than the severity of the punishment. 
I
6. Inadequate Training and Testing.  Training and driving tests are often of the most basic kind.  Training may be left entirely to the individual and the testing can be little more than driving up and down the road for a few seconds.  Even low standards can often be by-passed with the help of a few dollars in the right place.  
I
7. Low Literacy Levels.  When a country has a low level of literacy it makes it more difficult to instil information into the general population, you cannot just give someone a book with all the road rules in and ask them to read it.  Those concerned also find it difficult to follow street signposts, read a map or follow written directions.  Other methods need to be used like giving verbal instructions, which are ineffective and time consuming.  
I
8. No Photo Licence on display.  Again, may sound trivial, but it means almost anyone can end up driving a bus, [being responsible for the safety of a large number of people] even though they might never even have passed a driving test, let alone been trained to drive a bus.  If stopped, they just give a false name.  This makes enforcing standards far more difficult.  If a driver has to display their photo licence somewhere that everyone can see it and a copy is kept at a central registration office then checking for unqualified drivers becomes much easier.  Operators should also be given the responsibility of ensuring that anyone driving one of their vehicles is a properly qualified and licensed driver.
I
9. Apathetic Politicians.  Very difficult to accomplish anything if you have apathetic politicians, they are the only people who are in a position to really make things happen.  It may be that preventing road accidents is not seen as a priority, it is something which costs money, that they cannot afford and would be unpopular.  The truth is, there are few things that are such a drain on a nation's resources or cost so many lives.  It may also be a problem, if getting things done, means dealing with several layers of... Government: Police: the Judiciary: and an inefficient bureaucracy.  If the only driving force for change are voluntary organisations... then the 'Authorities', rather than being the answer to their problems... actually become a large part of the problem.
I
10. Corrupt Officials.  Getting anything accomplished becomes very difficult when you are faced with endemic corruption.  At the top end it is a problem if the country in run by a small group of wealthy elite who control most of the business and all the political influence.  Anything which is beneficial to the general population but damaging to their commercial interests is likely to fail.  Further down the food-chain there is a whole range of officials who are employed to... issue licences: documentation: or to enforce regulations... but are more than willing to accept a bribe for not enforcing the rules.  While those who are paid to uphold the law abuse their positions and use their powers to line their own pockets.  It becomes very difficult to convince drivers that they should act in a responsible and considerate way when those in positions of authority are clearly doing otherwise! 
I
11. Ruthless Operators.  Some ruthless operators equate everything in purely monetary terms.  If it is more profitable to drive fast and run over a few pedestrians, they are quite happy to do it.  They may not actually say so in such an obvious way, but instigate practices which make this the inevitable result.  If drivers have no security of employment it leaves them very open to pressure from unscrupulous employers.  This may come in the form of being forced to work excessively long hours... being given 'revenue targets' which force them to aggressively compete with other drivers... and to complete unrealistic journey times.  In the event of an accident the operator can leave the driver to take all the blame.  The practices of operators can certainly contribute to a higher accident rate, and they need to be held to account.
I
Extreme Cases.  In some cases, it may be that the only people who are in a position to bring about changes are the very same people who are ruthlessly exploiting their workers and the chief beneficiaries of the present situation.  As an example... in a situation we know of, there is a city which has about 6,000 three wheeled, 'taxi' type vehicles.  The vehicles are generally owned by the people who drive them, usually having 2 long shifts per day.  So, about 12,000 families derive their income from the industry.

Their main problem is... that to drive their 'taxi' they must have a 'taxi licence' on their vehicle.  Every 'taxi licence' in this city is owned by a small group of about 5 or 6 families.  Approximately, half the annual income of every driver will go to one of these licence owners.  Competition for passengers is fierce and road safety is well down the list of priorities for these people.

This whole system is based around corruption and greed.  These licence owners have become extremely wealthy without providing any kind of service to the drivers.  They are in collusion with Local officials and high ranking Police, who all get their 'cut' of the profits.  Anyone who complains about the situation is ruthlessly dealt with, and these people can instigate violence or even murder in the sure knowledge that they will never be brought to justice.  These people have a stranglehold on the city which can only be broken from the outside: i.e. a decisive intervention from Central Government, or if the drivers themselves manage to organise and force a change in their circumstances.  A Road Safety organisation is not likely to achieve very much under these circumstances.
I
12. Lack of Consideration for vulnerable road users.  It is quite apparent that many drivers operate on the 'might is right' principal.  This means, regardless of what the law says, if they have a bus and you are on a bicycle, or a pedestrian trying to use a crossing, they are coming through and you had better get out of their way!  This 'attitude' is extended to all road users who are obviously more vulnerable than themselves, in any situation, buses and trucks push everyone out of the way, cars will push bikes out of the way, and a high casualty rate among cyclists and pedestrians is the inevitable result. 
I
13. Lack of Finance is undoubtedly a problem.  Even if it makes economic sense to spend money to prevent road accidents, the Authorities still have to raise funds in the mean time.  Higher standards usually means higher costs and these must be passed on to the 'end-users', either indirectly through higher fares, or directly such as making crash helmets compulsory for bike riders.  Passengers are very aware of any increases in costs but do not always appreciate the long term benefits of fewer accidents.  Generally, the thinking is, that anything you do will cost large sums of money, but that doesn't have to be the case. 
I
The Bottom Line is... that even when you drive on the worst roads... in a poorly maintained vehicle... and with all the other factors you have going against you... it is still possible to drive relatively safely.  Equally... you can be on the best roads in the world in a brand new vehicle and drive like a madman.  The biggest single factor when it comes to road safety is, the behaviour of the person sitting behind the steering wheel.  Unfortunately, developing countries often suffer from appallingly low standards in this area as well.
I
I
Conclusions.  
I
The Reality is... Developing countries simply do not have the same options available to them as richer nations, using money to solve problems is a complete non-starter!  If you identify your problems... and identify your restraining factors... then by a process of elimination... you will know the options left available to you!  This will almost certainly be... to tackle those problems that are related to some aspect of human behaviour... and with a minimal increase in expenditure.  There are no ready made solutions here... if countries are going to get to grips with these problems... they will need to experiment with innovative new ways which are untried and untested.  
I
Anything which has been identified as a problem can be worked on and improved... but for most developing countries building substantially better roads... or large scale upgrading of public transport vehicles... is simply not an option.  The costs are expensive... and one way or another they must be passes on to ordinary people... that makes these measures unpopular with the people and unpopular with politicians.  The good news is... that you can still drive relatively safely with a poor vehicle on any type of road... and most of the problems listed (3-12) are organisational... or to do with attitudes... or some aspect of human behaviour.  
I
Poorer countries need to develop a different set of priorities to those of the Industrialised countries and concentrate their efforts in these areas.  It should be remembered... that the ultimate goal is to control the behaviour of the person sitting behind the wheel, [further on we shall explain how this can be done.]  Tackling the problems (4-12) just help to solve the primary problem, (3.)
I
In an odd way... the good news is... driver behaviour is frequently of a very poor standard... so there is plenty of room for improvement.  Generally... drivers know when they are breaking the law... it is a conscious decision: [even if it is not part of a well thought out strategy.]  Finally... although your biggest problems come from people... your greatest asset is also people... all you need is strong Political will... and enough determination from enough people.  At the end of the day... this may be a country's easiest way to increase their future prosperity.  Stop squandering the wealth they have already created.
I
I
Solutions.  
I
Basic Requirements.  Even though the problem of 'driver behaviour' can be tackled with minimal resources there are still quite a few basic requirements.  Something like a Road Safety organisation is going to find it almost impossible to achieve anything without the active support and participation of the Authorities, it is their responsibility and they are the only ones to have the power to really make things happen.  Police resources would need to be re-directed to areas dealing with prevention, while Operators should be compelled to co-operate and to keep records of who drives which vehicles and when.  Insurance companies should also be include in this process as they are in a position to influence decisions.  A committee with representatives of all the various groups should be set up to push through the implementation at a national level where laws are passed and at the State/Province/City level where the operations are controlled.  
I
I
Persuasion.  
If you're not in a position to change things, then your first priority is to persuade those people and groups that are in positions of power, that this is a serious problem and that something can be done, with their support.  You cannot work on the assumption that people will help change things just for the benefit of Society as a whole... many people are only motivated by self interest.  If someone is a ruthless operator that is only interested in their profits, then obviously you need to demonstrate why the measures you are proposing are good for their business.  
I
Politicians.  There is an obvious need to get the backing of Politicians at every level.  Only they can... pass laws: direct government departments: the Police: and the Judiciary... to act in certain ways.  If they are not interested, it may be because they have always thought that you can only have safer roads if you throw money at the problem.  Something they were not prepared to do.  They must be convinced that much can be achieved without spending large sums of money and of the benefits this would bring to the health service and to the economy as a whole.  They must be made to realise that road safety is an issue that they simply cannot afford to ignore.  
I
Depending on the circumstances... it may be possible to implement many of these changes without actually having to get any laws passed by the Central Government.  If there is a strong, [and very determined] committee which includes, for example... local Politicians: Police: Operators: Insurance companies: and Bankers... they may be able to exert enough pressure in various ways as to bring about changes.  The committee could draw up a 'code of conduct' for drivers, outlining what they think the drivers' rights and responsibilities should be.  The same for Operators... stating what standard of behaviour they require from them about... how they treat their drivers: working conditions: records to be kept: co-operation with the Police: safety measures: etc.

Although it may not be a legal requirement that they do these things, there must be a price to pay if they fail to comply.  Their Insurance premiums could go up: licence applications become more difficult: Police target their company for driving offences: Gov. Depts. more strictly enforce regulations: credit squeeze at the Bank: after road accidents they could be prosecuted for negligence... and while others might earn awards and public recognition... they will only get bad publicity.  The conditions must be set so that ignoring 'Road Safety' becomes very bad for business!!
I
Police.  This would mean a change in working practices for the Police and any change is likely to produce some resistance, if for no other reason than, people don't like change.  They have a key role to play in upholding and enforcing the law.  If 'enforcement' has been identified as a problem and there are unlikely to be additional funds made available, then the only option is to increase efficiency by introducing more effective working practices.  [This should not be a problem because Police out on the streets usually have a lot of 'Dead Time' where they are hanging around doing nothing in particular.]
I
Industry.  The driving force for Industry is profit.  Operators need to be convinced that 'Road Safety' is something which is, cost effective, good for business and should be implemented even if it is not a legal requirement.  Conditions need to be set so that profitability within the industry are based on... efficiency and quality of service... rather than rule breaking and aggressive competition... which only benefits the more ruthless operators.  No extra revenue is generated for the Industry as a whole by 'aggressive' competition... there are still the same number of operators... the same number of drivers... chasing the same number of passengers.  But a lower rate of accidents does mean lower overheads and healthier profit margins for everyone.  Ask operators... how much does road accidents cost your business each year? how much do they pay via increased Insurance premiums?  That gives you a very good idea what they stand to gain by a reduction in the accident rate of any given percentage.
I
Public.  There is no real need to try and persuade the general public of the benefits if they are not being asked to pay higher fares.  They would have... safer journeys: a more efficient service: [because of less hold ups resulting from accidents] a better health service: and lower costs in the long run. [see Benefits.]
I
I
Trial programme 
In the long term, the intention should be, to involve as many people as possible in a pro-active way in order to exert 'Social Pressure' on people to change their behaviour.  In the short term, it would probably be better to break the problem down in to smaller, more manageable parts and deal with them separately... starting with one identifiable group, like bus drivers.  
I
A committee would need to decide on some basics, like... who would do the reporting: other drivers: Police: Inspectors: or a combination of all three.  What information would be... on reports: how many reports each could do: the type of follow up action to be introduced.  [These issues are dealt with in detail throughout this website.]  This would certainly vary from country to country but different systems might also be introduced within one country.  What is effective for local city buses may not work when dealing with inter-city or rural buses.  Countries would need to adapt the system outlined in this website to reflect their own conditions and level of resources.    
I
For example... some major changes would have to be made in the way that Information was... gathered: processed: and distributed.  Instead of having independent 'Review Panels', persistent offenders might have to justify their actions to one individual... or a combination made up from Police/Operator/Drivers' representatives??  A process of 'trial and error' would be required... if something is getting results, great... if not, try to find out why and change it.
I
I
Develop a Structure
The basic concept is laid out in detail throughout this website.  Countries need to develop a 'Structure' around... Drivers: Operators: the Police: and the Authorities... which taps into existing hierarchies... and which makes the process of identifying individuals quick and easy... so that they can all be held accountable for their actions.  At present these groups all act in a completely independent and anonymous fashion... individuals ruthlessly pursuing their own interests... and ignoring their responsibilities to the wider community.  You need to 'connect' these individuals... so that they become part of a system... with powers and responsibilities which they cannot ignore.   
I
Drivers: often feel like they are anonymous while out on the streets... it is rare that they are held to account for anything they do unless it results in an accident.  The dominant influences on their behaviour are the pressure to make money: [which could mean... long hours: unrealistic journey times: a lack of job security makes drivers subject to unreasonable pressure and therefore excessive 'risk taking'] and the general Road Culture that they find themselves working within.  All these problems need to be addressed to some degree.  Drivers need to be 'connected' to... their employer: [the operator] the Police: their co-workers: and the general public.   
I
Operators: also have this feeling of anonymity.  They are rarely held to account for their actions even when one of their drivers causes death through reckless behaviour.  It is easy for the operator to claim that it was nothing to do with them... that they did not know what the driver was doing... even though the pressure they exert may be the main reason their drivers are behaving in a reckless manner.  Being 'connected' to the Police means they feel more accountable... drivers can air their grievances to police about unethical work practices... and Police have direct access to drivers through the operator.  
I
The Police.  In any large city it is usual that there are some specialist traffic Police... or a least a certain number assigned to 'traffic duty' of some kind.  If they are handing out tickets/fines for violations... they must first see the offence take place... then stop the vehicle and write out the ticket.  This is very inefficient and unlikely to produce long term benefits.  Once the ticket has been issued... the driver disappears down the road... never to be seen again.  The driver is probably resentful at their 'bad luck'... not expecting it to happen again... and almost instantly driving in exactly the same way.  That means developing permanent points of contact, between... the Police: the Company: and the Drivers... so that rules can be reinforced again and again.
I
The Authorities.  Need to become more involved in a constructive way with the issue of Road Safety.  Many seem to think that accidents are something that just happen and there isn't much you can do about it... unless you have a lot of money to spend.  The Authorities have a vital role to play... if they don't do something about the situation, who will?  There are things that can be done, it just requires... a 'Plan': some Political willpower: and a lot of hard work and determination.  One example where the Authorities are trying to engage the general public in a pro-active way comes from Nigeria...
I

Nigeria.  The Federal Road Safety Commission [FRSC] is charged with responsibilities for policymaking, organization and administration of road safety in Nigeria.  Key to its operational success is its "Corps of Marshals" operating a three-tier system.  [See blinkx Videos for more Information and News stories from Nigeria.]
I
  • First Tier [Regular marshals]  These uniformed men and women are in the employment of the Federal Road Safety Commission.  They perform all duties assigned to them by the Corps including, and most especially, the reduction of road traffic accidents in Nigeria.  They are the strongest and most visible arm of the Corps and are called Regular Marshals.
  • Second Tier [Special Marshals]  These are volunteers of proven integrity who have considerable interest and expertise in road safety.  They do not wear uniforms but are empowered, like the Regular Marshals to arrest and prosecute traffic offenders, give lectures, offer research services and advise in their areas of professional competence.  Called the Special Marshals, they primarily assist the regular marshals.
  • Third Tier [Road Safety Club]  Youths in schools and colleges are organized into road safety clubs at the primary, secondary, tertiary and National Youth service Corps [one-year compulsory service after university graduation] levels.  Unlike the Regular and the Special Marshal, they do not patrol the highways.  Rather, they are encouraged to imbibe road safety culture from an early age and demonstrate these in their school activities.  [See... FRSC Nigeria.org]
I
Reporting.  
The first thing you need with this system is a way of gathering 'Information' about what is happening out on the roads... so who should be chosen to make reports?  Initially it might be best to keep the reporting 'in-house'. i.e. mainly those involved in the target Industry being included.  This might include any driver with basic literacy skills... or more strict criteria might be decided upon: [See Road Supervisors.
I
It would be better... if reports came from a variety of different sources... from other drivers: from the Police: from Inspectors... who might be watching busy bus stops... or doing reports by riding anonymously... and maybe even such things as government employees... who might fill in reports as they travelled about their everyday business.  This would be useful on long inter-city trips.  A driver would never know if an Inspector [or 'Road Supervisor'] was onboard... so would have to drive carefully all the time.
I
Next: you need a system to process 'Information'.  There are any number of ways that reports could be... filled out: collected: and then sorted out: [see Files.]  If they were done on standard paper... then forms could be photocopied in triplicate... or produce two carbon copies... one kept by the person making the report: [they should keep their own 'reporting file' which could be inspected] and the other two copies sent on to a processing centre [perhaps the Police headquarters: Dept. of Trans. Council offices??]  The two copies would be forwarded to the Police station which was dealing with the area that the bus was registered in.   
I
Finally: you need a system to disseminate 'Information' to the 'end users'.  That being... the Policeman for the area concerned: the Operator: and the Driver reported.  The Police would keep one copy for their records and take the third copy [in a batch, say, once a week] to the operator... which helps to establish their high profile around the depot.  The operator would then work out which drivers were driving which bus and pass the reports onto the individual drivers with their 'comments'.  Groups of drivers would probably end up standing around reading their latest reports and comparing notes: ['Road Safety' becomes an on-going subject of discussion.]  Perhaps, once a month the traffic Policeman would make an extended visit to a depot to discuss problems with the operator and any drivers that seemed to be causing more than their fair share of problems. 
I
The essential point... your local traffic Policeman now has one point of contact... a person in a position of power who can influence the behaviour of their drivers: [which might be a considerable number.]  Drivers would have to account for their behaviour to the Operator... who would in turn be answerable to the local Policeman: [among others.]  Those drivers who were persistent and/or serious offenders would have to answer to the Policeman directly... and justify their behaviour: [for strategies, see Review Panels.]  As is generally accepted, the perception that you will be held to account/caught, is far more important than the severity of the punishment.  Regular contact means the Policeman gets to know the individual drivers... and he gets to know what they are doing... which means drivers lose their 'sense of anonymity'.  This type of approach is far more likely to ensure long term improvements than being 'fined' in a one-off incident by a Policeman that they are never likely to see again.
I
I
As developing countries tend to have a high rate of commercial vehicles to private cars, this system might, eventually, be implemented across a whole range of Industries, probably starting with... Buses: then taxis: then delivery vehicles: large trucks: etc. etc.  One traffic Policeman from a local station could then concentrate on their relationship with the various 'Operators', giving them... guidance: education: and support in controlling their drivers... changing their individual behaviour.  Accessing and working through an existing hierarchy, rather than trying to catch individual drivers in the act and then just fining them.  If you can develop a reporting system and build a structure with specific points of contact, then just a few traffic Policemen can be very effective.
I
An experiment... similar to this was carried out in New Zealand recently.  If a driver was reported 3 times in one year for dangerous driving, [which could be done by any member of the public] then a local Policeman would go around to their home for an informal chat about their driving habits.  They found this was very effective and there were very few drivers that they had to go back and visit a second time.
I
I
A Daily Issue. 
However badly drivers behave there is usually some rational to it.  Most importantly, they will adopt the habits of the general Road Culture.  For example... if it appears 'normal' to jump red traffic lights then they are very likely to do it as well.  They feel fairly anonymous in the big city, just one of millions, so unless a Policeman stops them, [which they may believe is very unlikely] no one really knows what they do, or seems to care.  It is also the case that drivers may have to work long hour... complete journeys in unrealistic times... and generally feel under pressure to make money... and so become very competitive... which leads to aggressive and dangerous behaviour.  With no security of employment... drivers often have little alternative but to comply with the wishes of the Operators.  
I
There are consequences for not making enough money or not completing a journey on time... confrontation with an angry boss... loss of job.  These pressures to behave in a certain way are very strong... and any new system must be designed to either eliminate these pressures... or to carry sufficient weight so as to counteract them with even greater pressure.  This cannot be achieved by going around once a year lecturing drivers on the need for road safety... it must become a part of their everyday lives.
I
Reinforcement: needs to be done on a daily/weekly/monthly basis and in a variety of different ways if it is going to show any long term improvements.  That means... a regular high profile Police presence around their depot... stripping them of their sense of anonymity... effective enforcement through reporting... accountability... visible deterrents... financial incentives... pressure to conform to safe behaviour by their boss and co-workers... instilling a sense of pride... public recognition... inspections... relevant, targeted education... co-ordinated strategies to target offences... empowerment of the individual... and better job security.  None of these things has to involve spending large sums of money!
I
I
Present System.
As an example... There is a very common problem with 'Buses', specifically at busy bus stops, not pulling over to the kerb properly to pick up and set down passengers.  Drivers may know this is dangerous for their passengers but are under pressure to complete journeys, so safety becomes the casualty.  Under existing systems... a traffic policeman might pull over the bus and give the driver a ticket/fine.  As this is very unlikely to happen the driver will probably just put it down to bad luck.  With many other drivers continuing with this practise, being fined is something which is unlikely to happen again, and therefore, will probably be driving in exactly the same way the following day, even though they know it to be wrong.  The enforcement process has ended... the driver disappears... they have handed out one fine... but achieved nothing! 
I
I
New System.
If the incident was just reported, [by another driver... by someone on the bus... or an Inspector standing at the stop] it becomes a matter of record.  The driver would eventually be given the report... the operator would know about it... the policeman who came around every week/month would know about it... their co-workers would know about it.  Further more... if they did it again and were reported, [which they must be made to feel, is quite likely,] the pressure from those who knew what they were doing would certainly increase.  One way or another... it is a practice they would have to stop.  Systematically identify the problems... then work at getting them under control.  
I
Create a different ' Road Culture' so that certain behaviour is no longer acceptable.  You cannot just use one strategy: [like education] or work on individual drivers in isolation... you must tackle the whole problem... and individuals... at the same time.  If you just tell a few drivers to pull over to the kerb properly to pick up/set down passengers: [even if they respond in a positive way, initially] but the majority are not doing it... then within a very short space of time, they won't be doing it either.  They will revert to their bad habits.  [This is just like trying to bail water out of a sinking boat, without plugging the leaks.]  You must target a problem... and then co-ordinate the effort with a multi-strategy approach. 
I
As an example... targeting this problem within this type of system.  The local Police would speak to the operator/drivers about the problem and explain the dangers: [Education.]
I
Drivers would be asked to look out for this offence: (next week/month) and report it.  At the same time, it should register with them, that this was a rule they would need to comply with in order to avoid being reported themselves: [Pro-active involvement.]
I
Inspectors/Police should be highly visible at congested bus stops ensuring drivers comply with this latest directive... and reporting any non-compliance: [Deterrent.]
I
They could board a bus and speak to the driver immediately: (if necessary) and any reports should be quickly followed up back at the depot: [Reinforcement.]
I
Successes: and failures identified within the work environment: [Social Pressure.]  And maybe a bonus for top performers: [Financial.]
I
The following month... move on to some other problem, but continue to monitor the situation and target it again if necessary.  Note... It is no use telling drivers they must pull into bus stops if you only have small pulling in areas and hundreds of buses.  Inspectors would obviously have to use their common sense and make sure it was physically possible to comply with the instructions given... otherwise there is no point in reporting them.
I
I
The 'Method'.
I
You need to adopt strategies for all the categories mentioned.  You cannot make any real headway by relying on just one or two categories.  You cannot just 'Motivate' someone to act better... you cannot just 'Educate' someone to act in one way when there is 'Pressure' to act in another way.  It is unfair, just to add more 'Pressure' to someone already under a lot of 'Pressure'... you must help alleviate the conditions.
I
Some people only respond to 'Enforcement', [or at least the viable threat] and at the end off the line... when things still go badly wrong... people need to be held to account for their actions... and if appropriate, some form of 'Punishment' handed out. 
I
Use the same basic principals... laid out in this website for... Motivation: Deterrents: Targeted Education: Social Pressure: Enforcement: and Punishment strategies... but adapt for local circumstances.  Have a look at the present situation in your area/city/country and see which forces are at work... where they are coming from... and what affect they are having on the rate of accidents.  Then see how many different strategies can be utilised to influence a change in driver behaviour.
I
I
Motivation.  
For Operators and Drivers the main motivation is to make money/profits: [at least, it is in capitalist countries!] and security of employment.  If driving excessively fast and taking risks helps them to make money... that is what they will do.   
I
If you are going to motivate these people to change you will need to clearly explain the benefits of changing.  Both groups should be engaged in a pro-active way so that they feel a part of the system, part of the solution, they become important and have a definite role to play.  You can empathise with their situation... openly talk about ruthless operators and careless drivers giving them all a bad name.  [They are likely to agree even when they know that their driving is also careless sometimes.]  You must explain the new system... how it works... and their place in it.  They are empowered by the fact that they can now report other drivers who misbehave.  
I
I
Deterrents.
The best deterrent is always the perception that the driver has about being caught... rather than the severity of any punishment.  After all, dangerous driving can cost you your life... so if that won't deter you neither will increasing the size of a fine.  But, if that same driver has a police car following them... and the chances of being held to account is suddenly very high... their behaviour is likely to improve significantly.  Knowing you could be reported by other drivers, the police, potentially, anyone on the bus should be a significant deterrent to bad behaviour... and if it isn't... then at least you have identified a high-risk individual who will not change... and you remove them!
I
I
Targeted Education.
The present system of 'Education' is limited in scope... time consuming when addressing individuals... expensive when done through the media... and generally, ineffective.  There is certainly a place for education because it makes people aware of rules even if they continue breaking them.  Travelling around just lecturing drivers of the dangers of jumping red lights is not likely to have much of an effect... they already know it is dangerous and illegal... but they do it anyway because they are reacting to other pressures.  Your 'talk' is not going to change their circumstances... so they behaviour will probably continue.
I
The difference with this Method, is that education becomes a common part of the system.  You have a definite reason for talking to them about road safety issues without appearing to lecture them.  You can explain a common problem... and ask them to look out for drivers doing particular things: [like jumping red lights.]  This can be changed... next month you might target dangerous overtaking.  Each time, a short talk: [by Police? operator?] and the driver gets an advanced warning.  Not only are they to look out for this offence... but they will think, 'must avoid doing that next month'.  
I
When a driver has been reported then any offence becomes relevant to them personally.  If they were reported because they did not drop passengers off in a safe way... then the subject is open for discussion.  In many cases, there is little they can say in their defence.  If they have jumped a red light, what is a justifiable reason?  I was in a hurry?!?
I
I
Social Pressure.
Various forms of Pressure are the dominant force that influences behaviour... unfortunately these forces often influence drivers to behave in bad ways.  Operators and drivers are often under extreme pressure to reach certain financial targets... which force them to ignore road safety issues.  Drivers may also be under pressure to work long hours... and complete journeys in unrealistic times... with the threat of losing their jobs hanging over them.  Another dominant influence is the 'Road Culture'... if everyone else is jumping red lights... they will do it as well.  Although illegal these things almost become acceptable... the drivers are actually conforming to an accepted standard of 'normal' behaviour.  
I
One of the most important aspects of this system is that drivers should lose their sense of anonymity.  If they are out on busy city streets... with millions of others... or miles from anywhere... driving to another city... then no one really knows what they are doing.  Once there is a possibility that they could be reported by someone... on their bus: an inspector, standing next to a bus stop: or another driver... and they would have to explain their actions to other people... their sense of anonymity and unaccountability disappears.  Drivers must know that they are being watched... and that they will be held to account for their actions. 
I
The more people... who are taking an active interest in a driver's behaviour the better.  To this end, where there are a lot of drivers they could be organised into groups: [in a way commonly done with sales teams.]  As an example... Lets say that drivers are organised into groups of 8.  Financial remuneration is readjusted so that 5-10% of earnings goes into a monthly 'Safety Bonus'.  Let's say, that there are enough reports being made, [from various sources] for each driver to be reported 3 times per week.  So, this group of 8 drivers would expect to be reported about 100 times in one month... on average.  Let's say that a target of 120 is set: [it should be achievable, without being easy] if this group of 8 were reported 121 times, or more, within the month? or any individual was reported more than 20 times... or one of them had an accident... then none of the drivers would get their monthly 'Safety Bonus'.

A Chart... could be put on display with all the drivers' names, arranged in their groups, so that the weekly running totals were on display.  Maybe a driver finds it profitable to drive in a dangerous manner but they would lose their bonus and become very unpopular with their fellow workers.  Safe drivers become popular drivers... having a low score becomes a sense of pride... and Road Safety become a daily issue.  Perhaps there are additional bonuses for the best group in the month: [or an annual prize.]  Maintaining a good driving record should also help with any future employment prospects.
I
I
Enforcement.
Most cities have Traffic Police, of some kind, even if they are very few in number.  Usually they will have some mode of transport: [car or motorbike] and will stop offenders for moving violations and give them a ticket.  On average they would probably not give out more that 20 such tickets in one day... that's 100 a week and about 400 per month.  Drivers fined... but never to be seen again... and almost certainly driving in exactly the same way the following day.  Punishment handed out... but nothing long-term achieved. 
I
With this type of system traffic Police would concentrate their efforts on establishing contacts and creating a high profile in and around the depots where drivers congregate.  In theory, one policeman could have an extended visit at 4 depots a day... 20 per week... 80 per month: [perhaps this would be 4 visits to 20 different depots??]  Direct contact with 80 Owner/operator/depot managers and more indirectly with several hundred? or thousand drivers.  The Policeman should have time to talk to the worst offenders and also find out about pressure being put on them by operators.  If only a few drivers were being reported a lot... this would indicate that the problem was the driver rather than the operator.  
I
Increased Efficiency.  An immediate reaction may be that there is not the man power available to do this extra work.  Any Policeman out patrolling the streets has a lot of 'Dead Time', which they spend [sitting: standing: walking: riding:] driving around without actually doing anything.  Their presence may act as a deterrent to bad behaviour, but they are basically there to respond to things which happen, like accidents and crime.  If someone with a motorbike was assigned to visit the bus depots, [which might seem like a lot of work] they are still riding around, [acting as a deterrent] they can still deal with any crimes or accidents they come across, they can still instantly respond to any radio calls for assistance.  Even in a big city, most Police stations would only have a few bus depots in their area and usually they would be within a few miles, so one Policeman calling in regularly, [as they pass... as time allows,] does not require any extra manpower... they are just filling in their 'Dead Time'.
I
Inspectors.  Could be used to enforce rules... provide a high profile deterrent along busy sections: [if wearing a uniform] and to make anonymous assessments of drivers: [if wearing plain clothes.]  A Policeman could inform a driver with a poor record that an inspection had been requested and this would take place at some unknown time in the near future.  This means they would have to drive at their best for an extended period of time.  Other government officials, who happen to be on long Inter-City or International bus trips, might submit a detailed report about the driver: [good, average or bad.]  The driver would always be aware that any bad driving could be reported and if they did it on a regular basis, almost certainly would be.
I
I
Punishment.
Any form of 'Punishment'... fines: driving bans: or imprisonment: are a measure of failure.  That is not to say that people who act in an irresponsible way should not be held to account for their actions... it is only the certainty of Punishment that will motivate some people to behave as they know they should.  Within this type of system everyone could be held accountable... not just a driver who had caused an accident... Judges could also look at the role played by the operator.  A look through all the drivers' files who worked for the company could indicate whether undue pressure was being put on drivers... and if so, what did the Policeman assigned to this operator do to alleviate the situation.  Anything, or nothing?  The process should be open and transparent, so that everyone has confidence that justice is done and ruthless operators cannot avoid their responsibilities by paying off officials.  
I
I
Adapt to Circumstances.
It is very difficult to be specific as conditions vary so much, not just between countries but also within different parts of the same country.  Some countries may be quite prosperous... have high literacy rates... and a stable democratic Government.  While others are strife torn... poor... unstable... and teetering on the brink of anarchy... where any road safety initiative would be a complete non-starter.  Each country must judge for themselves what they can achieve given the scale of the problems and the resources available to them.  
I
Reports.  Could not necessarily be taken at face value.  For example, it could be that in a small town you have one big company with 100 drivers and one small company with 10 drivers.  If the drivers at the small company had much higher levels of reports against them, it could be because they were all bad drivers.  However, if drivers only reported those from a different company, then those at the small company would be reported a lot more often than those at the big company... even if the standard of driving was the same.
I
If this was part of a deliberate campaign to discredit the small company then you would expect to see the level of reports evenly distributed among all drivers... it which case look at the source of the reports and take some appropriate action against the reporters.  If the reports were genuine, you could still establish an 'average' level for the company, which would tell you who were the best and worst drivers.  This is one reason that it would be better to have a variety of sources for the reports.    
I
Owners.  Sometimes, the pressure to perform may come from further up the food chain.  Wealthy owners may say that they fully support 'Road Safety'... but set unrealistic targets for their depot managers... who in turn, set unrealistic targets for their drivers.  With little or no job security... and no State benefit system to rely on... these workers are almost certain to give in to pressure... and put the need to make money well ahead of any safety considerations.  This type of system makes it inevitable that accidents will happen.  In which case, the 'system' must be altered.  Accidents cost money and they have to be paid for by someone, either the operators cover their own loses... or they pay through higher Insurance premiums.  [Sometimes the State recovers its medical costs from the operators... either directly or via the Insurance company.]  The financial conditions need to be set by the Authorities and Insurance companies so that 'accidents' are the one thing that Owners/operators want to avoid above all else. 
I
I
Accountability.   
In many developing countries there is a definite lack of accountability by people who are wealthy and/or in positions of power.  Even when this does not lead to blatant corruption it still means that people can make bad decisions and never have to explain their actions to anyone.  They have 'Power, without Responsibility'... and that's a bad combination.  
I
Police.  Apart from dealing with drivers, Police could also monitor the level of co-operation from operators.  If they got rid of drivers with good records and were keeping drivers with bad... ask for an explanation.  Put it in a report which could then be made available to... a Licensing Authority: Court: or Insurance companies.  As everything is on-file, Police could also be held to account... by their Superiors: any Independent body: or a Court: what action was taken and why.   
I
Insurance.  Take a more detailed look at companies and their work practices.  Not just their record of accidents... but their potential for future accidents.  What work records do they keep? what are their drivers' records like? who have they sacked and why? what 'road safety bonus' schemes do they run? what does the police report about their co-operation say? what journey times have they set? on what basis are drivers paid? what safety awards have they won?  While none of these may be legal requirements it doesn't stop Insurance companies asking the questions, and if they did not believe that a company was taking adequate measures to keep claims down they could adjusting their premiums to reflect this. 
I
Public Acknowledgement.  The power of public acknowledgement should not be underestimated... likewise the power of public shame.  Within a company, this can be done by displaying a table with all the drivers records on view... which individuals and groups have scored the best... and giving awards or bonuses.  This can also be done by the Authorities to show the top performing companies.  Awards must have 'credibility', [who is giving the award and on what basis] but could be as simple as having big stickers on the side of their buses, showing... a gold: silver: bronze: award for safety.  Publicity photos in the newspapers... while those companies making little or no effort should be 'Named and Shamed'.  Again, ignoring safety becomes bad for business!
I
I
The Bottom Line.
I
There are limits to what you can do without funds, but with this system the only real costs are to maintain Files on drivers and this could be done with existing personnel... that only leaves the cost of stationary.  So, there is little excuse for doing nothing... either you make a serious attempt at getting to grips with the 'driver behaviour' problem, using innovative new ideas... or you continue on in the same way as you have previously... in which case the results are a forgone conclusion.  [See... Make Roads Safe.org]
I
I
I
Back to the Top. Articles Home. Site Plan.