International Lessons for Road Safety in the People's Republic of China

Publication | August 2013

Road traffic collisions are a serious constraint to development and a burden to many low- and middle-income countries. The World Health Organization estimates that each year around 1.2 million deaths and between 20 and 50 million injuries occur on the world's roads. These road traffic collisions are a serious constraint to development and a burden to many low and middle income countries.

Acknowledging the global importance of road safety as a development issue, this staff working paper considers approaches and good practices for road safety which have been adopted in the best performing countries during recent decades, drawing in part on the findings of a technical assistance project on Improving Road Safety through the Application of Intelligent Transport Systems in the People's Republic of China (PRC), it suggests how these can be useful for reducing road traffic deaths and injuries in the PRC.


Road traffic collisions are a major global health problem, leading to similar numbers of worldwide deaths as malaria or tuberculosis. The great majority of these deaths occur in low and medium income countries, where the problem is often getting worse due to increasing motorization. In contrast, many high income countries, despite their high levels of vehicle ownership, demonstrate steady improvement.

This paper has identified lessons from high income countries that have been successful in road safety that are relevant for the PRC and other low and medium income countries to draw upon and benchmark, in their efforts to reduce road traffic deaths and injuries. These include the following:

  • Because road safety is a multi-sectoral, multi-disciplinary issue, coordination of actions by all relevant agencies is critical. The most successful countries have a strong multi-stakeholder coordination mechanism, with a lead agency to oversee and ensure coordinated actions;
  • An action plan, with quantified targets against which progress can be assessed and outcomes evaluated, helps to give focus and momentum to the implementation of road safety policies. Evaluation of the impact of projects and policies is important to inform future actions and for updating of the action plan; and
  • Actions are needed at national and local government levels. Professional staff, with responsibilities for road safety, need to be trained and recruited for all levels of government.


  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Road Safety in the PRC
  • International Lessons
  • Considerations for Road Safety Improvements in the People's Republic of China
  • Conclusions
  • Appendix: ADB's role in Road Safety
  • Endnotes