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The University of Southampton

Research project: STARS: Sociotechnical Approach to Road Safety

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A multi-disciplinary, international project that takes a sociotechnical systems perspective of road safety in low- and middle-income countries, funded through the National Institute for Health Research with Overseas Development Assistance funding.

Low- and Middle-Income Countries (LMICs) have more than twice as many road traffic fatalities (per head of population) compared to high-income countries (WHO, 2015). Whilst these countries represent 82% of the global population, they only represent 54% of registered motor vehicles, thus they have a disproportionate number of deaths relative to their level of motorisation (WHO, 2015). The overall goal of our GHRG is to reduce the number and severity of road accidents in LMICs through our underpinning philosophy of “local solutions for local problems”.

Pre-existing relationships have enabled us to identify four target LMICs for collaboration in the GHRG. These represent a range of economic development: A least developed country (Bangladesh via Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology), a low-income country (Kenya via Strathmore University), a lower-middle income country (Vietnam via National University of Civil Engineering), and an upper-middle income country (China via Tsinghua University). The estimated road traffic death rate per 100,000 of the population in these countries is as follows: Bangladesh (13.6), Kenya (29.1), Vietnam (24.5) and China (18.8). In contrast, the rate for the UK is 2.9 (WHO, 2015). We do not set out of impose a westernised view of road safety; instead we seek to capture the current challenges facing these countries and, in collaboration with our LMIC partners, develop and evaluate relevant and realistic solutions.

Traditional road safety research has been characterised by the ‘3 E’s’ of Engineering, Enforcement and Education. Although they have provided guidance to engineers and policy makers, they do not go far enough at providing a holistic and integrated approach to road safety and fail to consider fully the wider system factors that shape road user performance and outcomes. The STARS project intends to tackle road safety from a ‘7 E’s’ perspective, with the inclusion of Ergonomics, Economics, Emergency response, and Enablement. There are four overarching objectives for achieving this work:

 1. Capture the current situation in each LMIC through local data collection of the road transport system

 2. Develop solutions and countermeasures from a socio-technical systems-based perspective based on the local data

 3. Evaluate these solutions in simulated environments (a significant output of the project is establishing simulator facilities at each LMIC institution)

 4. Disseminate findings at local and national levels in order to shape the interventions, policy and regulations to reduce road crashes and associated public health trauma.

 This will enable us to deliver measurable benefits, primarily targeting a reduction in loss of life from road crashes by designing safer systems, but also aiming to reduce injury severity by improving the coordinated multi-agency effort of emergency responders. Road traffic injuries incur a heavy economic burden, estimated to be $2 trillion worldwide in 2010 (iRAP, 2013; DfT, 2016).Therefore we will employ well-established techniques to demonstrate the economic costs of road accidents and gains which can be made through safer systems. We will also address the indirect benefits of safer road systems including increasing physical health through more active transport choices and the associated improvements in congestion and pollution. Above all, we aim to equip our target countries with the knowledge and resources to continue to make their roads safer after the project has finished.

Associated research themes

NIHR Global Health Research

Human Factors Engineering


Related research groups

Transportation Group
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