In the early 1990s the Sustainable Safety vision was launched in the Netherlands. The principles are prevention of crashes where possible, and prevention of severe injuries when a crash happens. Sustainable Safety is characterised by a proactive approach treating weak spots in the system before a crash occurs.

The five principles of Sustainable Safety are (1) functionality of the road; (2) homogeneity of masses and/or speed and direction; (3) predictability of road course and road user behaviour by a recognisable road design; (4) forgiveness of the road environment and of road users; and (5) state awareness by the road user.

A goal of Dutch safe road design is to reduce the likelihood that fallible human beings will misread the road. A ‘self-explaining road’, on which the driver is encouraged to naturally adopt behaviour consistent with design and function, originated in the Netherlands.

Self-explaining roads show road users with a clear road layout where they should be and what they should do to maintain safety. Different classes of roads should be distinctive, and within each class features such as width of carriageway, road markings, signing, and use of street lighting should be consistent throughout the route. The environment effectively provides a ‘label’ for the road type thereby lessening the need for separate traffic control devices such as additional traffic signs to regulate traffic behaviour.

Only more recently did Dutch policy makers amend their principles to add the proposition that roads should also be ‘forgiving’, and be capable of protecting road users in the event of a crash.

  • Active Member: ANWB (since 2002, Founding Member)
  • Authority Members: RWS DVS – Rijkswaterstaat Dienst Verkeer en Scheepvaart (since 2003); Overijssel (since 2011); Gelderland (since 2011)
  • Centre of Excellence: SWOV
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Risk Mapping

Risk Mapping was first carried out in 2001. The latest mapping results covered fatal and serious crashes on national roads over the four year data period 2002-2005. Results showed that just 3% of the network fell into the higher risk bandings (black and red), while 88% were rated in the lower risk bandings (green and yellow).

By 2006, almost no national roads fell into the higher risk categories and focus moved to Star Rating.

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Star Rating

ANWB lead a comprehensive Star Rating programme covering both the national road network, and more recently, funding road inspections of the provincial road network and working closely with provincial road authorities to identify and implement effective countermeasures where the need is greatest.

Results in 2008 showed that many national roads could be safer, scoring on average much lower than motorways in terms of their safety. The large majority (71%) of Dutch motorways were found to be ‘safe’ with a score of 4-stars, with 27% awarded 3-stars and just 1% of national trunk roads including the N-roads, scoring 2-stars. low ratings were typically the result of prevailing speed limits, obstacles along the roadside, raised or lowered hard shoulders, the type of intersections and their numbers along a particular  section of road, the presence or absence of central reservation guardrails and the presence or absence of lane markings.

Former Minister Eurlings promised that all roads rated as 2-star would be brought up to (at least) a 3-star standard, the first declaration of its kind from a national government.

Over 25% of fatal road accidents in the Netherlands take place on provincial roads although these roads account for only 6% of the total dutch road network. Provincial roads are generally well managed and maintained, but the combination of a high speed limit (80 km/h) and the profiles of these roads means that a great many of them are not suited to handling large traffic flows safely.

In the Provinces, results for Gelderland (1,276km) and Overijssel (695km) were released on 14 June 2012. Results showed that despite the overall high quality of maintenance of the network (markings, signing etc), the features that lead to death and serious injury in the event of a crash were as expected found to be widely present include lack of head-on protection, junctions where brutal right-angled side-impacts may occur, and hazards such as unprotected trees close to the road.

On September 10th 2013 the results of remaining 10 provinces (7500 km provincial roads) were presented in a meeting at the ANWB office in the Hague.  After that, each province got it’s own report with EuroRAP results. These investigations were presented in March/April 2014.  The principal recommendations made to the provinces were: introducing guard rails, rumble strips and  roundabouts.

An indicative calculation shows that with an investment of 1.9 billion euros over 20 years,  it would be possible to raise the safety level to 3-star. By upgrading, the number of people involved in serious accidents can be reduced by 13,500 over 20 years. The total benefits of the measures are calculated at over 4.1 billion euros.

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Contact details

Mr. Ferry Smith | Director Public Affairs | ANWB | Tel: + 31 88 269 71 47
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