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Title:Forging a Path to Vision Zero in the US: A Critical Analysis of Road Safety in Australia
Authors:Wesley E. Marshall
University:University of Colorado Denver
Publication Date:Sep 2020
Report #:MPC-20-420
Project #:MPC-556
TRID #:01754222
Keywords:alternatives analysis, countermeasures, highway design, highway safety, policy
Type:Research Report – MPC Publications


Despite similarities to the US in terms of transportation, land use, and culture, Australia kills 5.3 people per 100,000 population on the roads each year, as compared to the US rate of 12.4. Similar trends hold when accounting for distance driven and the number of registered cars. This paper seeks to understand what is behind the road safety disparities between these two countries.

The results suggest that a number of inter-related factors seem to play a role in the better road safety outcomes of Australia as compared to the US. This includes Australia's strategies related to seat belt usage and impaired driving as well as their efforts to help curb vehicle speeds and reduce exposure. Design-related differences include a much greater reliance on roundabouts and narrower street cross-sections as well as guidelines that encourage self-enforcing roads. Policy-related differences include stronger and more extensive enforcement programs, restrictive licensing programs, and higher driving costs.

Combined with a more urban population and multimodal infrastructure, Australia tends to discourage driving mileage and exposure while encouraging safer modes of transportation such as transit, at least more so than in most of the US. Australia also enacted their version of Vision Zero – called the Safe System Approach – more than a decade before similar policies began cropping up in US cities. While it is difficult to attribute recent road safety successes to any specific policy, Australia continues to expand their lead on the US in terms of safety outcomes and is a road safety example worthy of consideration.

How to Cite

Marshall, Wesley E. Forging a Path to Vision Zero in the US: A Critical Analysis of Road Safety in Australia, MPC-20-420. North Dakota State University - Upper Great Plains Transportation Institute, Fargo: Mountain-Plains Consortium, 2020.

NDSU Dept 2880P.O. Box 6050Fargo, ND 58108-6050