Improving road safety in Münster

A pilot project on systematic accident analysis in local authorities

Guaranteeing road safety is a key factor in ensuring that personal mobility functions smoothly. Despite all the efforts of those responsible (such as the Accident Commission), it is possible that the number and severity of accidents cannot be reduced, because there is no way of identifying the causes underlying the apparently unstructured set of accident statistics.

The city of Münster was faced with a situation precisely like this. They therefore requested the assistance of the German Insurers Accident Research (UDV) in thoroughly investigating the various interrelationships and the background that were contributing to the accident statistics that been constantly poor over a period of many years. The UDV responded by carrying out a pilot project in Münster in order to develop an accident analysis procedure that could be applied to other local authorities.

Systematic approach

A comprehensive and systematic analysis of all 27,741 accidents that occurred in the years 2004 through 2006 coupled with supplementary observation of behavior allowed the UDV to identify not only accident blackspots, but also systematic causes of accidents and to draft recommendations for measures to be taken. The investigation covered the following aspects:

  • Identification of accident black spots
    The data used for the investigation was a network-based analysis of the entire city using the accident type maps provided by the police according to the criteria laid down in the Code of Practice for Evaluating Road Traffic Accidents (FGSV, 2001)1).

  • Local accident investigation
    In the areas where significant numbers of accidents were identified, more detailed examination of the local accident situation was carried out using the police documents (notifications of accidents, lists of accidents, accident diagrams, collections of accident reports, etc.) in order to identify structural similarities between the accidents, which can then be used as the basis for targeted improvement measures and strategies to reduce the accident rate.
    In addition, accident diagrams were created for all black spots, for frequent accident spots (FAS) as well as for frequent accident lines (FAL). The local situation in each case was documented during accident-site inspections (photos, sketches and sometimes video recordings).

  • Route-based safety analysis
    In addition, a route-based safety analysis was carried out for the primary road network in accordance with the FGSV recommendations on performing safety analyses on road networks. The results of this analysis indicate those stretches of roads on which measures designed to improve safety can achieve the greatest effect.

  • Observation of behaviour
    It is not possible to eliminate all accidents by means of construction measures or traffic control measures. It is possible that a typical pattern of incorrect behavior on the part of the road users contributes to the accidents. In order to develop targeted measures against incorrect behavior (e.g. surveillance and specific road safety activities), general and specific observations of behavior were performed, concentrating particularly on cyclist and pedestrian traffic in areas with high accident frequency and in areas that showed no significant frequency of accidents.


Conclusion

The results of the project show that a systematic approach making use of a comprehensive and detailed analysis of all accidents is vital if weaknesses in the infrastructure are to be uncovered and faults in the behavior of road users are to be identified. Only in this way is it possible to develop and implement suitable measures and targeted strategies to improve road safety. Adequate financial resources and staffing are necessary to support the accident commissions in this work. However, the pilot project also shows that it can make sense to have the investigation carried out by external experts who are able to uncover shortcomings and recommend appropriate measures independently of any internal constraints. The systematic approach adopted in Münster should act as an example to be followed by as many local authorities as possible in order to achieve a marked reduction in the frequency and severity of accidents.

The City of Münster has now not only developed a „Master Plan for Improving Road Safety in Münster“ on the basis of the expert report provided by the Insurers Accident Research. For the next five years, it will be making available a budget of 5 million euros that will allow the majority of the proposed measures to be implemented.