Month: July 2011

Addressing Road Safety Problems in Indonesia

Indonesia is facing a serious road safety problem. Approximately 20.000 people die and nearly 84.000 people suffer non-fatal injuries each year due to road accidents (Indonesian National Police, 2010). It means that every thirty minutes one person dies on the road. Without any improvement, this number will inevitably rise. The data shows that eighty nine percent of the deaths were vulnerable road users: i.e. pedestrians (15%), cyclists (13%), and motorcyclists (61%) (WHO 2009). In fact, ADB (2005) indicates that the actual number of the victims might be three times greater due to severe under reporting in Police Data. The economic loss from road accidents was projected to be around US$ 4.5 billion or 2.9 % of the Indonesian Gross Domestic Product (UGM 2002 as cited in Pasek 2006).

There are three main contributing factors to road crashes: human, vehicle, and road. Human factors include road users who do not comply with the road rules, such as motorcyclists who do not wear helmets, drivers who do not wear seatbelts, road users who ignore the traffic lights, riders who drive on the wrong lane, and so on. Vehicle factors include vehicles without proper safety equipment, i.e. seatbelt, flat tire, broken braking system, etc. Road factors include road infrastructure with bad horizontal or vertical alignment, poor surface condition, lack of adequate signage and line marking, etc. One study recorded that human factors contributing roughly 78% followed by vehicle 6% and road 3% with 11% remaiing unknown (Directorate of Technical Affairs 2009). On top of that, road crashes happen because of the interaction of these three factors, but since the data shows that road factors only contribute 3 % to the crashes, people often neglect it and blame all crashes on the road users. However, the data should be analyzed more deeply because often when road safety engineers conduct an inspection of the crash site, they reveal many other findings that have not been covered in the police records. Therefore, this essay will discuss how far road infrastructure contributes to the crashes, and how improving it can reduce the number of fatalities.

International studies found that the road condition plays a major role in the occurrence and fatalities of road crashes (IndII 2010). The Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, released by the World Health Organization (WHO 2010), stated that there are five pillars that should be addressed in improving road safety problems, and ‘safer roads pillar’ is placed prior to ‘safer vehicle pillar’ and ‘safer people pillar’. It can be concluded that road aspect should be improved first before improving the vehicle and human factors.

How to determine whether or not the road contribute to a road crash? Phillip Jordan, who has over thirty years of road safety experience in 24 countries (2009) says that it can be done through road safety engineering. It consists of two main processes: Blackspot investigation, a tool to obtained detail information about the crash and to decide what type of countermeasure is needed to prevent another crash in the future; And road safety audit, a comprehensive assessment to find the safety deficiencies at a specific link of the road. Jordan has conducted numerous blackspot investigations and road safety audits along Indonesian National Highways since 2007. His report (2009) shows that most of the highways have enormous safety deficiencies. In fact, nearly 47% of the 34.600 km roads are still sub-standard, which means most of the roads are undivided and less than 5.5 m wide (MPW 2009). Moreover, approximately 17% of the road surface is in poor and very poor condition, let alone proper safety devices such as signage, marking, and delineation.

The gap between the actual condition and the standard is very significant. As stated in the Government Regulation (Number 34 2006), arterial roads are supposed to be minimum 11 meters wide and have a median at the centre of the road to divide the traffic. However, fulfilling the standard only is not enough. Herrstedt (2006) points out that the new paradigm in safer road planning is called a “self explaining and forgiving road”. Self explaining road means that the road should be equipped with signage and delineation, so that the road users have a clear direction in driving their vehicle. While the concept of forgiving road is based on the understanding that road users are ordinary people who can make mistakes which lead to crashes. In this case, their mistake should be ‘forgiven’ and not be punished by death (ibid). This method consists of fulfilling the gap of safety deficiencies, include removing hazardous obstacles along the roads, installation of crash barrier, sealing the shoulders, etc. In a forgiving road, even if a crash occurs, the severity of the victim is significantly decreased.

In addition, WHO (2004) states that one of the road safety problems in Asian countries is the mixed of traffic on one carriageway which can increase the risk of crashes. It claims that a road network should have clarity in terms of the hierarchy of roads. For example, high-speed roads should have limited access, large curve radius, or special lane for motorcyclists.  Rural roads should have periodic lanes for overtaking, median barriers to prevent overtaking in hazardous locations, removed road side hazards, etc. In terms of pedestrian and cyclists safety, WHO states that the pedestrian and cyclist lane should be separated from the motorized lane, and it also should be connected to public transport facility.

ADB (2003) supports these approaches and also adds more detailed information about the importance of knowing the characteristic of developing countries’ road condition before practicing such strategy. In developing countries, the road is mostly used by vulnerable road users. It fact, in Indonesia, the number of motorcycles is four times greater than the number of cars. Therefore, from the planning stage, the focus should be given to the motorcyclists and other vulnerable road users. ADB notes that there are several things to consider in safe planning, such as: Land use should be spread out so that the traffic conflict can be reduced, direct access from local to major road should be limited, e.g. no access should be allowed at sharp curves and hill crests. In terms of safe design, ADB mentions the fundamental aspects such as: cross-section including the width of the road according to its hierarchy, sight distances are not obstructed by anything, sufficient curve radius including the horizontal and vertical alignment, speed limits signs should be clearly installed, road signs and marking should be conspicuous and clear, drainage ditches should not located too close to the road, obstacles and safety fencing to prevent collisions should be introduced, street lighting should be installed at intersections, bus stops and lay-bys should be provided to prevent rear-end crashes, intersections should be obvious, and pedestrian facilities should be provided particularly in urban roads (ADB 2003)

As mentioned earlier, there is a huge gap between actual Indonesian roads and the ideal condition. The implementation of road safety development might be classified into two terms: short term and long term countermeasures. Short term countermeasures are a low cost improvements which can carried out immediately and have direct impact, such as routine maintenance (e.g. patching the potholes, cutting the vegetation which obstruct the sight distance, removing roadside hazard, covering the ditches, etc),  installation of proper safety devices (e.g. signage, marking, crash barrier, delineation, etc). Since these improvements are low-cost, funding would not be a problem, yet, the awareness of road authorities to perform such improvements is the real challenge. In contrast, long term countermeasures include things that need appropriate planning before being carried out. It includes realignment of the road, planning new infrastructure, capacity building, etc. These improvements will need both the willingness of the road authorities and the funding.

To implement such strategies, there should be clear calculation about what are the benefits from a road safety improvement. One way to present it is through a Benefit Cost Ratio (BCR) Analysis (Phillip 2009). But, to be able to calculate the benefits and costs, there should be information about Crash Reduction Factor (CRF). It is a percentage reduction in crashes that can be expected after implementing a treatment or program, and used in selecting appropriate countermeasures and in economic appraisal of road safety project. Vicroads, road authority in Victoria, has been developing the CRF since 1980s. Some of the examples are, improving sight distance by removing roadside hazard can reduce the crash to 50%, sealing the shoulder and painting the edge lines can reduce the crashes to 30%, and so on. CRF has also been studied in Denmark, for example, Herrstedt (1997) found that providing special lane for bicycle along urban road can reduce deaths among cyclists by 35%. From this CRF, the BCR can be calculated, hence, we can get the information about the priority of which countermeasure should be implemented.  However, Indonesia does not have such studies at the moment. It is strongly suggested that Indonesia starts developing its own CRF.

In conclusion, there is a lot of evidence to show that improving road infrastructure can reduce the number of fatalities significantly. However, the reduction will not happen overnight, it will need continuous process. In fact, improving the roads per se will not solve the problems, it should be followed by improving the vehicles as well as the people in order to address the road safety problem successfully.


Asian Development Bank, 2003, Road Safety Guidelines for the Asian Pacific Region, ADB. Philippines.

Asian Development Bank-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Regional Road Safety Program, 2005, Country Report CR-3: Indonesia, Philippines

Directorate of Technical Affairs Directorate General of Highways Ministry of Public Works (MPW), 2009, the Mapping of Blackspot Location at Sumatra East Corridor and North Coast Java Corridor, Indonesia (unpublished)

Directorate General of Highways (DGH) Ministry of Public Works, 2009, DGH 2010-2014 Strategic Plan, Indonesia.

Government Regulation, 2006, Peraturan Pemerintah Number 34 Year 2006 Concerning Road, Republic of Indonesia.

Herrstedt, L. 1997. Planning and safety of bicycles in urban areas, in: Proceedings of the Traffic Safety on Two Continents Conference. Swedish National Road and Transport Institute, Denmark.

Herrstedt, L. 2006. Self-Explaining and Forgiving Roads – Speed Management in Rural Areas. Trafitec, Denmark.

Indonesian National Police Data, 2010, Traffic Accidents Data 2004-2009, Traffic Police, Indonesia.

Indonesia Infrastructure Initiative (IndII), 2010, Making Indonesia’s Roads Safer: An Australia-Indonesia Partnership in Road Safety Engineering, Indonesia.

Jordan, P. 2009, Introduction to road safety engineering, Ministry of Public Works, Indonesia. (unpublished)

Ministry of Public Works (MPW), 2010, the role of Ministry of Public Works in Developing Safer Roads, MPW, Indonesia. (unpublished)

Pasek, G. 2006, Indonesia’s Country Report for Expert Group Meeting on The Development of the Asian Highway Network: Regional Experiences and Lessons in Financing Highway Infrastructure and Improving Road Safety, Indonesia.

World Health Organization, 2004, World Report on Road Traffic Injury Prevention, WHO, Geneva.

World Health Organization, 2009, Global Status Report on Road Safety: Time for Action, WHO, Geneva.

World Health Organization, 2010, Global Plan for the Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020, WHO, Geneva.