Why is IRSC based in Serbia?
EU member countries currently have the best road-safety record in the world. Some of them - Sweden, the UK and the Netherlands - are recognised as global leaders in road safety. EU countries have made dramatic reductions in road deaths over the last decade and many, including several ex-Soviet countries, have reduced deaths by 40-60%. This demonstrates that even countries with inadequate management structures and economic constraints are able to make major reductions in annual road deaths by implementing improvements based on the EU approach to road safety. However, these new EU member states have had to implement related European directives to conform to European legislation related to road safety. Consequently, their successes were influenced by their need to comply with European requirements.
In contrast, Serbia, a candidate for EU membership, is not yet required to follow the EU Directives. In common with many other low and middle income countries (LMICs), it had limited funds, ineffective legislation and management structures. There was no central responsibility for road safety. In addition, there were problems of corruption, which together with an unreformed Soviet-era traffic police, led to a poor road safety record.
Serbia decided voluntarily to implement the EU approach to Road safety even though it was not required to do so. However, it did not just copy & paste the solutions and interventions but spent time adapting them to local needs and resources. Serbia achieved this by reviewing and selecting from international best practice. In this way, Serbia has not only matched EU road safety focus and activity but in some respects (eg risk mapping, safety in community activities and safety funding) has actually surpassed EU standards by introducing innovative solutions. The end result is that Serbia has reduced deaths by 43% over the period 2001-2011 and by 57% between 2001 and 2014.
Serbian achievements across the 5 Pillars
Serbian experience offers many practical road safety initiatives as follows:
1. An effective road safety legislation that provides the legislative framework for effective road safety at national and local levels;
2. One of the most innovative and effective funding mechanisms, defined in the legislation, that requires traffic fines, collected through traffic police enforcement, to be allocated directly to road safety - 70% for national activities and 30% for local level activities;
3. A modern crash data system where police crash data is consolidated with data from other sources to enable more effective analysis. The analyses and data is subsequently made available to all relevant users;
4. A reformed traffic police force staffed with well trained professionals focused on data-led policing and targets-based risk mapping;
5. Belgrade University, one the foremost universities involved in road safety research and road safety teaching. The university has actively facilitated the transfer of best practice knowledge within Serbia and across the Region. It has completed many road safety studies and projects in Serbia and neighbouring countries;
6. The implementation of road safety action plans in around 170 towns, cities and local communities together with an annual road safety conference well attended by delegates from towns throughout Serbia;
7. The NAVAK Driver Training Centre - a world class training centre with some of the best facilities and course content in Europe;
8. The Serbian Roads Administration (PERS) which has been ISO 39001 assessed and has a strong focus on road safety - its Chairman of the Board is a road safety expert.
9. A well-staffed and well qualified Road Safety Agency managing and overseeing the implementation of the national road safety programme.
Serbia has a unique position in road safety. In financial and institutional terms it is still a developing economy, suffering many of the same problems and difficulties as other LMICs. However, in road safety terms, it is amongst the most innovative in the World. It has demonstrated that even a relatively poor LMIC can deliver effective road safety in a structured and systematic way.
The Serbian experience provides an excellent role model and motivation for other LMICs to follow. It is somewhere where IRSC trainees are still able to meet with colleagues who were directly involved in the reforms and improvements. Trainees are able to discuss the problems and difficulties faced and how solutions were found and implemented.