Motorways are one of the most important transportation subsystems, which provide at the same time quick, comfortable and safe travelling.
Motorways are the safest road infrastructures worldwide. Despite their significant traffic volumes, only 8.5% of road fatalities in the European Union occur on them, with an even lower percentage in Greece (7% in 2019). The development of new motorways in Greece the last twenty years resulted in a significant reduction of road crashes, despite the significant traffic increase. In 2019, road fatalities on Greek motorways were reduced to 50 compared to 147 in 2007. Analyses in Greece and worldwide, indicate a massive road fatalities decrease, by at least 60%, as a result of the new motorways operation, compared to the period before their construction. However, many crashes on motorways are more serious due to the higher speeds recorded, compared to the other interurban road network.
Motorways in Greece are a totally controlled traffic system in a very high quality infrastructure and therefore could be an ideal application field of the most modern international trends and practices for even higher road safety levels. For instance, the international principles of Vision Zero and Safe System Approach could be applied, according which the Motorways’ Management Authorities undertake the responsibility to develop and implement comprehensive programs, in order to drastically reduce road crashes and to eliminate road fatalities (and gradually seriously injured too). Every saved life has a major value and developed countries intensify their efforts to reduce casualties, even if these are very few.
Zero Vision Crashes, aiming to eliminate road fatalities, first adopted by Sweden and then by several other developed countries, could and should be part of the road safety strategy of the Greek motorways, bringing significant social and economic benefits. The adoption of this ambitious and achievable vision for the Greek motorways should be based on the approach of the Safe System, e.g. taking the responsibility on the one hand for the optimal management of road infrastructure and traffic with focus on safe speed management and on the other hand for the control and training of motorways’ drivers for safe behaviors anytime everywhere.
The most important measure for improving road safety on motorways is an integrated speed management programme which includes both the systematic and effective speed limits enforcement and the necessary revisions in order to correspond to reality (and thus to increase the probability of drivers compliance). In addition, all the latest technological innovations (in-vehicle systems, connected and collaborative infrastructure, etc.) could be used for the variable speed limits implementation, which in addition to the road geometry will take into account the real time prevailing conditions of traffic, visibility, weather, incidents, etc.
For the efficient driver behavior improvement, targeted systematic driver training campaigns are needed with emphasis on the five key risk factors (speed, alcohol, mobile phone use, seat belt and helmet). Moreover, new telematics technologies could be used to monitor driver behavior from smartphones sensors, for static and dynamic information and guidance for safer behavior, adapted to their driving characteristics in the specific traffic conditions, possibly in combination with toll discounts.
For the success of road infrastructure safety management actions regarding infrastructure, traffic, speed and driver behavior, the systematic monitor of both traffic and driver characteristics and performance (few data are available today) and the scientific evidence based selection of targeted actions are necessary. Especially with the exploitation of new technologies, it is possible to achieve with low cost investments, significant benefits in road safety and finally the achievement of vision zero crashes.
Greek motorways nowadays have all the potential to exploit modern road safety techniques and technologies, to put systematic effort and stand out globally, aiming and achieving very soon the Vision Zero Road Fatalities.
Article in Construction magazine in December 2021