One million deaths and serious injuries could be prevented every year if the world’s 10% highest risk roads are upgraded to meet the safety recommendations of the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP), according to the charitable organisation.

The Road Safety Fund is financing core operating costs of iRAP through a grant from the FIA Foundation. This core funding enables the iRAP secretariat to coordinate, implement and supervise infrastructure safety assessments on six continents, working in partnership with donors and lenders including the Australian aid agency AusAID, the Asian Development Bank, Bloomberg Philanthropies, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Millennium Challenge Corporation and the World Bank.

iRAP rates roads for safety, publishing accessible information to empower the public and inform policymakers and road engineers. Using traffic and crash data, iRAP can develop Risk Maps illustrating where on the road network people are dying and where their crash risk is greatest. The maps capture the combined risk arising from the interaction of road users, vehicles and the road environment. Where crash data is poor, Star Ratings provide a simple measure of the level of safety ‘built in’ to the road for vehicle occupants, motorcyclists, bicyclists and pedestrians. Ratings are based on assessment of 50 road attributes and provide an objective and transparent means of managing risk. 5-star roads are the safest and 1-star roads are the least safe.

By partnering with iRAP, organisations gain free access to the programme’s tools, technology and advice. The programme is designed to integrate with the operations of government and non-government organisations, by providing training for staff and through use of existing resources and procurement methods. Participants are encouraged to work in a spirit of cooperation for the mutual benefit of members of the RAP community across the globe.

Improvements to road infrastructure can dramatically reduce the risk of crashes occurring, as well as their severity. Safety barriers, improved intersections, motorcycle lanes and pedestrian and bicyclist paths save lives. By focusing on fixing the small percentage of roads with the highest traffic volume and high casualty rates, iRAP demonstrates how targeted investment can deliver big benefits:

  • In Vietnam, an iRAP Safer Road Investment Plan showed that an investment of US$195 million would result in the prevention of 78,000 deaths and serious injuries over 20 years. $6 in crash costs would be prevented for every $1 invested. That investment is now being mobilised through loans provided by the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and JICA. The Government is planning to extend iRAP assessments to the entire national network;
  • In India, projects co-funded by Bloomberg Philanthropies and the Global Road Safety Facility are focused on national and state highways across the four states of Andhra Pradesh, Assam, Gujarat and Karnataka. These types of roads account for two-thirds of road deaths but represent just 10% of the nation's 3.3 million kilometre road network. The expectation is that implementing safety engineering measures on these roads will prevent one in every four road deaths and pay back government investment very rapidly;
  • In Latin America, the Inter-American Development Bank is helping seven countries from Mexico to Panama use IRAP to make the Meso Americano Highway safe.

    Governments are acting on the advice they receive from iRAP. In Europe, where the program has been long established, road authorities are using the program to target high risk roads and reduce casualties. The Dutch Government, for example, has committed to ensuring that all roads achieve at least 3 RAP stars by 2020. In the UK the work of Euro RAP has contributed to a 21% drop in the number of fatal crashes on motorways and A roads in the past three years. The investment cost of implementing elementary safety measures, often as part of routine maintenance, is paid back in an average of 10 weeks. The European Commission has supported the development of a European Road Safety Atlas highlighting high risk roads through RAP Risk Mapping in twenty countries, with European Commission Vice President Siim Kallas saying: “These maps help build transparency and understanding of the priorities for action between policy makers, public and engineers”.

Rob McInerney, iRAP CEO, says: “Leading countries are now acting to eliminate major roads with less than 3-star safety and setting the benchmark for the UN Decade of Action. The core financial backing of the Road Safety Fund enables us to plan strategically and build local ownership for our programmes with the support of a range of infrastructure funding and technical partners. With additional financial support for our regional operations around the world we can support iRAP programmes in more countries and leverage billions of dollars of road upgrades through our continued partnerships with development banks, government and NGOs. A world free of high risk roads can and will become a reality.”