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A world free of high-risk roads

The Business Case For Safer Roads

Achieving >75% of travel on 3-star or better roads by 2030
will save over 450,000 lives every year and more than 100 million lives and serious injuries over the 20-year life of the treatments.

Targeted safe roads investment by all countries of
0.1-0.2% GDP per year through to 2030 will unlock this incredible outcome
with $8 of benefits for every $1 invested.

More than 3,600 people die every day and an estimated 100,000 people will suffer life-changing injuries in the next 24 hours (refer to the Human and Global Impact). At current levels over 375 million mostly young people will be killed and injured in road crashes over the next decade.  The world cannot afford this to happen.

The UN has established a UN Road Safety Fund and UN Member States have agreed 12 global targets for road safety that include ensuring all new roads are built to a 3-star or better standard (Target 3), and more than 75% of travel is on the equivalent of 3-star or better roads by 2030 (Target 4).  Achieving these goals will also help meet the United Nations SDG Goals to “halve the number of global deaths and injuries” (target 3.6); invest in infrastructure to create growth and jobs (target 9.1) and ensure that transport is safe and sustainable (target 11.2).

The Business Case For Safer Roads

The iRAP Business Case for Safer Roads provides a high-level global estimate of the lives and serious injuries that can be saved, and the social and economic benefits of maximising the percentage of travel on 3 star or better roads by 2030.  This simple analysis helps to highlight the benefits of investing in road safety and creating safer roads and safer speeds that will save lives. With widespread application of low-cost maintenance safety treatments, well-targeted investment in infrastructure upgrades and safer speeds across the global road network an estimated 100 million lives and serious injuries can be saved worldwide if Targets 3 and 4 are met.

Important Note:  Global assumptions and data have been utilized to inform this simplified global analysis.  It is noted that many countries and jurisdictions will have more up to date and locally available data to better inform investment decisions and this should be used where available.

The Business Case for Safer Roads: >75% of travel on 3-star or better roads for all road users

UN TARGET 4: > 75% of travel on roads that meet technical standards for all road users by 2030 (equivalent to 3-star or better):

Low income Lower-middle income Upper-middle income High income ALL
Number of countries 29 52 53 51 185
Current Situation
Annual number of fatalities 172,759 591,534 485,109 95,415 1,344,817
Population  621 mil 3,007 mil 2,613 mil 1,148 mil 7,390 mil
Fatalities per 100,000 population 27.8 19.7 18.6 8.3 18.2
Annual number of fatalities and serious injuries 1,900,349 6,506,874 5,336,199 1,049,565 14,792,987
Annual cost of fatalities and serious injuries (% of GDP) 7.1% 4.7% 4.5% 2.0% 3.0%
What can be achieved with >75% of travel on 3-star or better roads for all road users
% of travel on 3-star or better roads for all road users by 2030 >75% >75% >75% >75% >75%
Infrastructure and Speed Management Investment required 12 bn 152 bn 352 bn 868 bn 1,384 bn
Annual GDP (2020) 531 bn 8,073 bn 26,350 bn 56,269 bn 91,223 bn
Annual Investment as a % of GDP (2020-2030) 0.20% 0.17% 0.12% 0.14% 0.14%
Reduction in fatalities per year 76,271 200,212 162,167 21,040 459,691
Reduction in fatalities and serious injuries (FSI) over 20-years 16,779,677 44,046,532 35,676,817 4,628,895 101,131,921
Economic Benefit 205 bn 1,657 bn 5,307 bn 3,380 bn 10,550 bn
Benefit Cost Ratio 18 11 15 4 8

* Full datasets have not been available for some countries with these countries excluded from the analysis above.  Total fatalities in 2016 is currently estimated to be 1.35 million people worldwide (

Assumptions, notes and references

Star Rating Performance Assumptions:

An analysis of over 358,000km of recent star rating and investment plans undertaken by government, development bank and mobility club partners worldwide has informed the existing star rating performance levels for each World Bank income category.  The star rating policy and target setting work by WHO, OECD, iRAP and leading countries has been used to inform the 2030 targets by income category.

Existing Roads % of travel
1-star 2-star 3-star 4-star 5-star
Low income 50% 30% 20% 0% 0%
Lower middle income 30% 30% 40% 0% 0%
Upper middle income 25% 30% 45% 0% 0%
High income 10% 30% 50% 10% 0%


2030 Target % of travel
1-star 2-star 3-star 4-star 5-star
Low income 0% 25% 75% 0% 0%
Lower middle income 0% 25% 70% 5% 0%
Upper middle income 0% 25% 60% 10% 5%
High income 0% 25% 50% 15% 10%

Annual fatalities:

Estimated number of road traffic deaths (point estimate) in 2016, WHO  (2018) Global Status Report on Road Safety.

Analysis of the OECD IRTAD Report highlights a longer term stabilisation of road fatalities with minor fluctuations from year to year in the 33 IRTAD countries (1.7% decrease in 2018).  IRTAD (2019) Road Safety Annual Report Assumed 2020 fatalities equivalent to 2016 WHO point estimate for purpose of estimating future lives saved.

Annual fatalities and serious injuries:

It was assumed that 10 serious injuries occur for each death. McMahon, K. and Dahdah, S. (2008) The True Cost of Road Crashes: Valuing Life and the Cost of a Serious Injury. This is expected to provide a conservative estimate compared to the TAC analysis provided in the Global Impact of Road Injuries.

Annual cost of FSI:

This is the estimated cost of fatalities and serious injuries. It was assumed that a road fatality costs 70 x GDP per capita and that a serious injury costs one quarter of a fatality. McMahon, K. and Dahdah, S. (2008) The True Cost of Road Crashes: Valuing Life and the Cost of a Serious Injury;  International Monetary Fund (IMF) World Economic Outlook Database.

Infrastructure and Speed Management Investment Required:

Investment levels have been based on average countermeasure costs and Safer Road Investment Plans from over 350,000km of assessments undertaken in recent years.  Road length has been based on values reported in the CIA Factbook.

The star rating of a road can be improved by either improving the infrastructure design (e.g. low-cost treatments such as line-marking, signage, roadside hazard removal; higher cost treatments such as barriers, footpaths, intersection upgrades) or through a reduction in the operating speed (e.g. traffic calming, lower urban speed limits, point to point speed cameras, vehicle technologies).  See the Star Rating Demonstrator at, iRAP toolkit and for more details.

For this analysis it was assumed that targeting the highest volume 10% of roads for each road user group with major infrastructure upgrades where required would address safety levels for >50% of travel (e.g. CBD areas and major shopping and education areas for pedestrians and cyclists; motorcycle routes and high-volume national highways, motorways and urban arterials for vehicles).  An average investment of $400,000 per km in high income countries; $250,000 in upper-middle income countries; $150,000 in lower-middle income countries and $100,000 in low income countries has been assumed.  In using these estimates, it is noted that some road sections will require more than these levels of investment and some may not require any investment at all.

Lower cost maintenance upgrades and speed management initiatives (assumed to be equivalent to 10% of the major upgrade costs) have been assumed across the lower volume parts of the network.

Reduction in fatalities (and serious injuries):

Reduction in fatalities and serious injuries have been calculated over a 20-year period in line with typical analysis periods used for road infrastructure projects.

Reductions in fatalities and serious injuries have been applied to the percentage of travel at each star rating level and based on the crash cost reduction per vehicle kilometre travelled for each improved star rating (e.g. OECD 2016, Zero Road Deaths and Serious Injuries) and similar studies worldwide.  Reductions for each incremental improvement in star rating have typically varied between 43% and 75% in these studies.  For the purpose of this analysis the more conservative estimate of a 40% reduction in fatal and serious injury outcomes for each incremental star rating improvement has been used.

Star Rating Relative proportion of fatalities
and serious injuries
1 1
2 0.6
3 0.36
4 0.216
5 0.1296

Economic benefit:

The present value of fatalities and serious injuries is calculated over 20 years. The GDP per capita value for 2020 was used for calculation of the annual benefits in year 1.  Long-term benefits (Net Present Value) has been calculated using a discount rate of 4%.

Benefit cost ratio:

The present value of the economic benefit divided by the current value of the cost to improve roads. It is noted that in most cases the future investment will be spread across a number of years and using the full present-day cost will provide a more conservative estimate.


The business case for safer roads have been prepared by Rob McInerney and Greg Smith from iRAP.

Thanks to Blair Turner from the World Bank GRSF for undertaking a peer review of the business case for safer roads.  To assist iRAP in undertaking more detailed analyses of the country by country potential for safer roads please contact [email protected]

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