On 6 and 7 October the FERSI conference took place in The Hague, the Netherlands. The challenging theme of the conference Implementing evidence-based road safety measures – Removing barriers and enhancing public support attracted an eclectic combination of researchers, policy makers and interest groups. With almost 90 delegates from over 20 countries, 35 presentations, 3 interesting keynotes and many formal and informal discussions and exchanges, the conference proved to be quite an inspiring event.
Substantial budget for Dutch road safety
In a keynote presentation, Geertje Hegeman, Head of the Road Safety Department of the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management, presented the new Strategic Plan for the Netherlands’ road safety between 2020-2030. After a decade of stagnation the new plan is based on the Safe Systems Approach and includes Key Performance Indicators and a substantial 500 million euro budget for improving (cycling) infrastructure and to stimulate innovation. Both the plan and the identified measures are evidence based and the first results are being evaluated now.
Voluntary use of bicycle helmets in Denmark
In the afternoon keynote presentation, Pernille Sølund Ehlers, Senior Advisor of the Danish Road Safety Council, showed how the Danes have managed to be so successful in promoting bicycle helmets with activities that explicitly targeted the barriers of cyclists to use helmets; voluntarily! In just about 15 years-time the helmet wearing rate grew from a few percent to around half of all Danes wearing one. Quite an achievement! For all participants – and especially for the Dutch – this experience inspires to try and achieve the same.
Pushing for safety in the EU General Safety Regulation
In the Friday morning keynote, Graziella Jost, Projects Director of the European Transport Safety Council, provided us with inside information on how they managed to push the EU and ultimately the UNECE, to accept the General Safety Regulation that includes e.g. ISA (Intelligent Speed Assistance). She also pleaded for stronger support in these processes. FERSI will take this up soon and discuss with ETSC how it can be of help.
Presentations on a wide variety of topics
In several parallel sessions and poster pitches a wide variety of topics were presented, from very specific measures for road users and infrastructure, to general road safety visions and policies, as well as the need for good data and the usefulness of new technologies in this respect. All contributors prepared an extended summary that are now available on the FERSI website.
Putting evidence-based knowledge into practice
During a panel discussion with five renowned road safety professionals, moderated by FERSI president Rob Eenink, the panellists reflected on overcoming barriers to putting evidence-based measures into practice. It became clear that both political and public support are crucial but often not easy to come by. Dedicated and timely actions are needed to get that support. Well-founded scientific arguments, close cooperation between policy makers and researchers, and making friends outside road safety if goals coincide, are just a few of the tips and tricks that came up. The panel consisted of Fred Wegman, former Managing Director of SWOV and professor emeritus at Delft University of Technology, Sandra Vieira Gomes, Senior Researcher at the Portuguese national engineering laboratories LNEC, Rune Elvik, Senior Researcher at the Norwegian Institute of Transport Economics, Laurent Carnis, Head of Road Safety at the French University Gustave Eiffel, and Graziella Jost of ETSC.