Month: June 2011

reduce crashes by reducing surprises

The world is experiencing a serious road safety problem. More than 1.2 million people die each year on the world’s roads, and between 20 and 50 million suffer non-fatal injuries[1]. In Indonesia, almost 100 thousand people died on the roads and more than 400 thousand people injured over the last 5 years[2]. It is known that road accidents are caused by multiple factors including human (91%), vehicle (5%), road (3%), and environment (1%)[3]. There are three basic steps in improving road safety, known as “3 E”: Engineering, education, and enforcement. Engineering means improving the road infrastructure and the traffic management; Education means increasing the road users’ awareness about how to safely use the road; Enforcement means the traffic police ensuring that the road users obey the traffic rule. This essay will discuss about the first step, which is, improving safety through engineering, because the condition and design of the road contributes largely to road safety outcomes.

Road conditions in Indonesia vary from national level, provincial level, and regency level. Indonesia has approximately 34.000 km national highway, where slightly below 50% of the length are in good condition. 34 % of the roads are in fair condition, 13 % of the roads are in poor condition, and 3% of the roads are in very poor condition. In provincial level, approximately only 6 % of 48.000 km road are in good condition, the rest are in fair (34%), poor (28%), and very poor (32%) condition. The regency road, which length is 288.000 km, the road condition is good (22%), fair (25%), poor (31%) and very poor (22%) (Status 2008)[4]. In terms of safety, road condition only is not enough. If there is a good road condition, but without adequate sign, it can not counted as a safe road. In Indonesia, there are still many “surprises” found on the national highway. “Surprises” here means that the road users did not know what they are facing on the road and there are no advanced warning, for example: Sharp bend after the long straight without warning sign; potholes after long straight road; many “unseen” access road along the national highway, it could be covered by the shops, the advertising banner, or many things. Another example is visual deceit, where road users think that the road goes straight but actually the road goes left or right. Another problem is a transition from four-lane divided road to two-lane undivided road, this sort of situation can lead to head-on collision.  There are also many schools, shops, or houses across the national highway, but the road users did not informed about those. These kinds of “surprises” are common along Indonesia’s national highway.

These “surprises” can lead to crashes where the outcomes could be minor injuries or even fatal injuries. If the “surprises” location caused many crashes, it can be a “blackspot”. Blackspot is a location where many crashes occurred. In Indonesia, the responsibility to investigate the blackspot goes to The Road Safety Engineering Unit under the Directorate General of Highways Ministry of Public Works Republic of Indonesia. It can be found from their blackspot investigation report that many crashes are happen due to the “surprises” on the road. One of the examples is in North Sumatera, on Medan – Rantau Prapat national highway km 101, there were fatal crashes where an oil truck that run from Medan towards Rantau Prapat, hit the motorcycle that came from an access road. The crashes occurred at 1 am where the traffic volume is low, the road condition is flat, the road surrounding is dark, and there were no sign to inform that there were an access road. In Surabaya-Lamongan National Highway, East Java Province, there is a transition from four-lane divided road to two-lane undivided road. There are no warning sign to inform the road user about this transition. This situation can lead to head-on collision. In South Sulawesi Province, there is one primary school on the national highway and there was one boy hit by a truck. Again, the problem is lack of delineation and warning sign to the road user.

Road safety can be improved not only with high cost countermeasure such as improving the geometry, but also low cost counter measure such as improving the delineation. Many of the crashes occurred because there is no adequate warning sign and delineation to inform the road users about the road, that known as “surprise”. Therefore, these problems can be solved with low cost countermeasure, by improving the delineation such as installing warning signs before access road, install school safety zone on the school road, install street light, install speed limit sign,  install chevron alignment markers on the side of the curve. With these improvement, road users know what to anticipate on the road, whether they need to reduce their speed, or to pay attention to the following access road, or to negotiate with the curve, and any other deficiencies.

As stated earlier, reducing crashes can be done by reducing “surprises” on the road. Reducing surprises can be made by improving the delineation. When should we start improving it? Well, talking about safety is talking about people’s life, and talking about “people”, not only means “other people”, but they could be us or our family. When should we do something to make our family’s life safe? No doubt, we should make road safety happen, now!


[1] WHO Global Status Report on Road Safety, 2009

[2] Indonesian National Police, Crash Data 2004-2009

[3] ADB-ASEAN Regional Road Safety Program Country Report CR 3

[4] DGH Strategic Plan 2010-2014 Book, Page 21, 2009