Eliminating Serious Injury and Death from Road Transport: A Crisis of Complacency, 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Eliminating Serious Injury and Death from Road Transport

A Crisis of Complacency, 1st Edition

By Ian Ronald Johnston, Carlyn Muir, Eric William Howard

CRC Press

199 pages | 24 B/W Illus.

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Listen: Ian Johnston busts the bad behavior myth.

Should we really accept road trauma as collateral damage from daily road use? Eliminating Serious Injury and Death from Road Transport: A Crisis of Complacency explores why societies and their elected leaders view traffic safety as a (relatively) minor problem. It examines the changes in the culture of road use that need to occur if this public health problem is to be effectively resolved.

  • Examines why road use culture is ego-centric ("what’s in it for me?") and why this blocks progress
  • Explores current traffic safety measurement methods and demonstrates how they have underpinned our flawed approach
  • Discusses the controversial issue of speed and speeding and shows how a new approach to speed management will be fundamental to transformational change
  • Details a simple account of the concept of a "Safe System" (as now promoted by the WHO and the OECD) while exploring the failure to get beyond the principles to extensive implementation

The book dispels the myths that currently drive societies’ (misguided) view of traffic safety—the bad behavior myth and the official myth that everything that can be done is being done—and how these myths limit progress in reducing death and serious injury. It presents current scientific knowledge and draws parallels with other areas of public safety and health. The book draws on examples from the media and from public policy debates to paint a clear picture of a flawed public policy approach. It presents a model for a preventive medicine approach to traffic safety policy to get beyond an ego-centric culture to a communal safety culture.


"In this passionate, punchy and persuasive new book, the authors explore our love of the car, our dependence on it, and the risks we tolerate in return for the benefits it brings. … Overall, very readable, thought provoking and strongly recommended."

Health and Safety at Work, June 2014

"This new book explores why societies and their elected leaders view road safety as a relatively (minor) problem. It examines the changes in the culture of road use that need to occur if this public health problem is to be effectively resolved. … a must read …"

—Lauchlan McIntosh AM FACRS, President, Australasian College of Road Safety in Journal of the Astralasian College of Road Safety, 2014

Table of Contents

Eliminating Serious Injury and Death from Road Transport Is Not a Pipe Dream

Serious Crashes Happen to Real People

Noel and Jan’s Story

Sam’s Story

Abbey’s Story

Three Stories among Tens of Thousands

The Way We View Safety Is a Big Part of the Problem

International Concern is Focussed on the Motorising World, Not on "Us"

Should We Measure Safety as Actual Numbers or as Rates?

Why Do We (Mostly) Rely on Death Counts and Death Rates?

Transport Safety Rate

Personal Safety Rate

So What Measure Should We Use?

How Much Risk Is Too Much?

The Car in Society

Car Dependence and Its Legacy

Car Culture

Driving Culture—Right versus Responsibility

Risk-Taking Behaviour

Prevailing Culture of Blame

Vested Interests and the Rise of "Anecdata"

Celebrity Culture

Overall Cultural Context

Brief History of How and Why Science Takes a Back Seat

Stages of Official Thinking about Traffic Safety

Basic Approaches to Injury Prevention

Evolution of Safe System Thinking

Inherent Unsafety of Our Present Road Use System

Everyday Error versus Blameworthy Behaviour

Decision-Making Context for Public Policy Development

Making Trade-Off Decisions

Safe System Approach

Institutional Management Really Matters

Serious Crashes Have Impacts Way Beyond Those Injured

Richard’s Story

Kate’s Story

Approaching Traffic Safety as Preventive Medicine

WIFM, Freedom of Choice, and the Dilemma of the Commons

Place for a Preventive Medicine Approach

Institutions, Vested Interests, and Policy Decision Making

What Can We Learn from Occupational Safety?

Safe Behaviour, Safety Climate, and Safety Culture

Speed Moderation: The Most Difficult Issue of All

Why Is Speed So Critical?

Speed and Crash Likelihood

Why Is Kinetic Energy So Important?

Extant Speed Limits and Current Levels of Protection

Safe Vehicles and Safe Speeds

Safe Roads, Roadsides, and Safe Speeds

Safe Road Users and Safe Speeds

How, Then, Do We Set Speed Limits?

Social Context of Speed Behaviour

How Might We Achieve Widespread Speed Moderation?


Confronting Complacency

Why Traffic Safety Lacks Both a Coherent Constituency and Committed Leadership by Government

Understanding the Challenges

Six Vital Steps toward Zero

Time for a New Focus


Committed Leadership

Climate of Safety

Capacity Building

Cooperation and Coordination

Courageous Patience



About the Authors

Dr. Ian Ronald Johnston is a psychologist with a PhD in human factors. He has worked in the transport field, specialising in transport safety, for over 40 years. He worked in the Australian government’s inaugural road safety unit in the 1970s, headed the Victorian government’s road safety unit in the 1980s, was managing director of Australia’s premier transport research organisation in the 1990s, and was director of the world-renowned Monash University Accident Research Centre until his retirement (from full-time work) in 2006. Dr. Johnston now runs his own consultancy specialising in helping government and industry develop and implement safety strategies. He is also deputy chair of Australia’s National Transport Commission and a member of the Core Advisory Group of the World Bank’s Global Road Safety Facility. He was a member of Australia’s National Road Safety Council for the 3 years of its existence. Dr. Johnston has published extensively in the field and has received several awards for his work, ncluding being made a member of the Order of Australia in 1997.

Dr. Carlyn Muir is a research fellow at the Monash Injury Research Institute, which incorporates the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC). She is a psychologist whose doctoral research examined driver licensing policy for people following brain injury. She has been involved in the development and review of public health policy not only from a research perspective, but also through direct policy implementation within state health services. Dr. Muir’s current research involves the design and implementation of a range of injury prevention and public health projects, with a focus on community health and safety, policy, and evaluation. She has published journal articles, book chapters, and government reports across the community safety space.

Since 2006 Eric William Howard has operated a strategic road safety consultancy that provides advisory services to clients including the World Bank, Global Road Safety Partnership, AusAID, PIARC, OECD/ITF, international NGOs, and overseas and Australian national and state governments and corporations. Howard was general manager of road safety for VicRoads, the lead role in the Victorian government, for 7 years. He was also a member of the Ministerial Road Safety Council and the National Road Safety Task Force following a career as a local government CEO and senior engineering manager for 24 years. His experience in public health includes 4 years as a board vice president of Mercy Hospital for Women, a leading teaching hospital in Melbourne. Howard chaired the OECD/ITF working group, which developed the “Towards Zero: Ambitious Targets and Safe System Approach” report, published in 2008; he was principal author for the United Nations Road Safety Collaboration–sponsored Speed Management Manual published in March 2008; and he was the independent chair of the Western Australian Parliamentarians’ Road Safety Reference Group from 2008 to 2011. He chairs a number of road safety task forces for the New South Wales government and he is co-chair of the 33,900—the Australian Road Safety Collaboration.

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
POLITICAL SCIENCE / Public Affairs & Administration
TECHNOLOGY & ENGINEERING / Industrial Health & Safety