A Territorial Dimension Can Be Useful for Managing Long-Term Regional Road Safety

A Territorial Dimension Can Be Useful for Managing Long-Term Regional Road Safety

Alessandro Sciullo (IRES Piemonte, Italy) and Sylvie Occelli (IRES Piemonte, Italy)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 20
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-5225-7927-4.ch011


Analysis of road crashes at the local level is necessary for targeting and implementing effective countermeasures. This chapter presents a contribution to this task. It describes the research carried out in Piedmont, Italy, where an exploratory approach has been used to link road crash data with information about the spatial characteristics of urban settlements. The analytic strategy is developed in three steps. First, fine-grained spatial data for road crashes, land use, traffic counts, and population distribution are linked by GIS methods. Second, a selection of the data is implemented at the municipality level and processed through a cluster analysis to identify territorial accident profiles. Finally, to show their analytic potential, one case study is discussed that considers road segments as main observation units.
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A new mobility and transportation plan has been recently laid out in the Piedmont region of northwest Italy (Piedmont Region, 2018). The plan is oriented around sustainability targets, including a long-term time horizon that adheres to a “vision zero approach” to road safety (Belin, Tillgren, & Vedung, 2012). The plan focuses on the involvement of stakeholders and customized interventions at the sub-regional level.

The territorial lens leveraged by the plan helps to sharpen road safety problems in the local areas. On a conceptual ground, it stimulates a deeper understanding of the complex nature of these problems and refines the concepts originally proposed by Rumar (1999). This author suggested that road safety problems can be articulated according to three levels:

  • 1.

    First Order Problems: Made apparent from the way we analyze accident and injury data. Examples of these problems include speed which are too high in built areas; alcohol and drugs are found too frequent in driving; road standards are inadequate; road safety for vulnerable road users is very low; accident risk for young drivers is too high Adopting a more adequate territorial lens can help assess the severity of a situation in an area. The accident counts and their features have to be investigated, considering the geographical and spatial morphology of settlements.

  • 2.

    Second Order Problems: Not immediately evident from the statistics they are revealed from a closer inspection of first order problems. These problems typically stem from the inadequacy of road traffic legislation, road safety education and/or control of road conditions. Solutions to these type of problems may make the countermeasures meant to solve first order problem redundant. Thus, the territorial dimension is more substantial for these types of problems. Since these problems are under the responsibility of several government institutions, addressing them requires attention at the extending and overlapping of the differentspatial jurisdictions.

  • 3.

    Third Order Problems: General in character and deal with the underlying conditions of road safety. These problems may concern the organization and management of road safety work and affect the values and knowledge of road safety for citizens. At this level, the territorial dimension also has a more encompassing role. It becomes a tool for supporting the exchange of information and sharing evidence about the social costs of road accidents, as well as the implemented countermeasures and their effectiveness. Additionally, local information about accidents helps raise awareness about the value of road safety by citizens and decision makers.

This chapter addresses the stronger role of using the territorial lens in managing road accidents. A methodological approach is suggested for profiling territorial situations of road accidents at the local level. The Piedmont region is used as a case study.



A road accident is an event involving at least one moving vehicle that may or may not lead to injury on a public road. It is unpredictable and results from the interaction, in a certain place and a certain time, of a number of factors, including human behavior, traffic situation, urbanization patterns and weather conditions.

Insights from the literature (Hermans et al, 2008, Ewing & Dumbaugh, 2009, Hughes et al 2015, Larsson et al 2010) show that these factors can be grouped into the following broad categories:

D1. Territorial context: includes local area features, such as geo-morphology and climate, functional level of roads, land-use pattern, traffic flows, transport services, socio-demographic and employment characteristics;

D2. Technology: accounts for the level of safety equipment of vehicles, e.g. passive safety systems (airbags, seatbelts, whiplash protection system etc.) and active ones meant to have a preventative role in mitigating accidents (Anti-lock Braking Systems, Lane Departure Warning System, Blind Spot Detection, etc.)

D3. Humans: includes factors about road users’ demographic profile, driving behavior and competence, life-styles, etc.

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