Towards a safe system in low- and middle-income countries: vehicles that guide drivers on self-explaining roads




advanced driver assistance, low- and middle-income countries (LMICs), road safety, Safe System approach, self-explaining roads


Road crashes cause a huge problem of public health in low- and middle-income countries (LMICs). The Safe System approach is generally considered as the leading concept on the way to road safety. Based on the fundamental premise that humans make mistakes, the overall traffic system should be ‘forgiving’. Sustainable safe road design is one of the key elements of the Safe System approach. Road design and speed control should help prevent crashes with a high level of kinetic energy. However, the road design principles behind the Safe System approach are certainly not leading in today’s infrastructure developments in most LMICs. Cities are getting larger with increasing motorization and expanding road networks. Existing through-roads in local communities are upgraded, resulting in heavy traffic loads and high speeds on places, that are absolutely not suited for this kind of traffic. Furthermore, a Safe System would require that functional design properties of vehicles and roads would be conceptually integrated, which is not the case at all. Although advanced driver assistance systems are on their way of development for quite a long period, their potential role in the Safe System concept is mostly unclear and at least strongly underexposed. The vision on future cars is dominated by the faraway concept of automation. This paper argues that the way to self-driving cars should take a route via the concept of guidance, i.e. vehicles that guide drivers, both on self-explaining roads and on more or less unsafe roads. Such an in-vehicle guidance system may help drivers to choose safe transport mode, a safe route and a safe speed, based on criteria related to safety and sustainability. It is suggested to develop driver assistance systems using relatively simple and cheap technologies, particularly for the purpose of use in LMICs. Such a guide may make roads self-explaining—not only by their physical design characteristics—but also by providing in-car guidance for drivers. In the future, the functional characteristics of both cars and roads may be conceptualized into one integrated Safe System, in which the user plays the central role. Such a guidance system may serve as the conceptual bridge between the roadway, the vehicle and the driver, and thus be considered as an indispensable component of the Safe System approach.  It is argued that such a development is necessary to bring a breakthrough in road safety developments in LMICs and also give an acceleration towards zero fatalities in high-income countries.


Download data is not yet available.

Author Biography

Hans Godthelp, Road Safety for All, the Netherlands | Netherlands Organisation for Applied Scientific Research, the Netherlands (retired)

Hans has been the Head of the Traffic Behavior Research Group at the Netherlands for Applied Scientific Research, TNO, and Professor in Traffic Safety Science at the University of Groningen, the Netherlands. As a researcher, he initiated the development of the self-explaining road concept, which serves as an important element of the international Safe System approach. His doctoral thesis was about the Time-to-Line-Crossing method, which describes driver visual attention needed when controlling a vehicle. He was one of the founders of the international GIDS project, which developed a first vision about the potential role of intelligent driver support systems in road traffic. As a research manager, he focused on the integration of human engineering knowledge in research and development programs, both in industry and in cooperation with governmental departments and universities.

Since his retirement in 2010, he serves as a partner at the Road Safety for All foundation with a focus on the development of road safety research and education in low- and middle-income countries. As a member of the Steering Committee, he supported the establishment and organization of the Delft Road Safety Courses, both at the Delft University of Technology, the Netherlands, and locally in . He also serves as co-chair of the PIARC working group on Special Road Safety Issues in Low- and Middle-income Countries.

CRediT contribution: Conceptualization, Resources, Writing—original draft, Writing—review & editing.


Bekiaris, E., E. Gaitanidou (2011), ‘Towards Forgiving and Self-Explanatory Roads’, in Bekiaris, E., Wiethoff, M., & Gaitanidou, E. (eds), Infrastructure and Safety in a Collaborative World (Berlin, Germany: Springer- Verlag).

Belin, M. A., Tillgren, E. Vedung (2012), ‘Vision Zero - a Road Safety Policy Innovation’, International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion, 19(2), 171–179.

Bhalla, K., K. Gleason (2020), ‘Effects of vehicle design on road traffic deaths, injuries, and public health burden in the Latin American region: a modelling study’, The Lancet Global Health, 8(6), E819–E828.

Carsten, O., M. H. Martens (2019), ‘How can humans understand their automated cars? HMI principles, problems and solutions’, Cognition, Technology & Work, 21, 3–20.

Carsten, O. M. J., F. N. Tate (2005), ‘Intelligent speed adaptation: accident savings and cost-benefit analysis’, Accident Analysis & Prevention, 37(3), 407–416.

ERSO (2018), ‘Advanced driver assistance systems’, European Road Safety Observatory.

EuroRAP (2015), ‘Road that cars can read’, European Road Assessment Programme, Proposals for Consultation.

FIA (2020), ‘Promoting Safer and Cleaner Used Vehicles for Africa’, Federation Internationale de l’Automobile Region I.

Godthelp, J. (1990), ‘Towards control in road traffic [in Dutch]’, Verkeerskunde, 41(3).

Godthelp, J., F. O. D. Beek (1991), ‘Driving with GIDS: Behavioural Interaction with the GIDS Architecture’, Advanced telematics in road transport: DRIVE conference, Brussels, Belgium, 4–6 February 1991.

Gururaj, G., G. M. Sukumar (2017), ‘Advancing road safety in India: Implementation is the key’, National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences, Publication 137.

Hydén, C. (2020), ‘Speed in a high speed society’, International Journal of Injury Control and Safety Promotion, 27, 44–50.

Kulmala, R. (2010), ‘Ex-ante assessment of the safety effects of intelligent transport systems’, Accident Analysis & Prevention, 42(4), 1359–1369.

Makwasha, T., B. Turner (2014), ‘Evaluating vehicle activated signs at rural roads’, 26th Australian Road Research Board Conference, Sydney, Austratlia, 19–22 October 2014.

Michelin (2014), ‘Road safety and connected mobility: An overview report on the current status and implications of road safety and connected mobility’, Michelin Challenge Bibendum.

Michon, J. A. (1985), ‘A critical view of driver behavior models: what do we know, what should we do?’, in L, E., & R.C., S. (eds), Human behavior and traffic safety (New York, USA: Plenum press).

Michon, J. A. (1993), Generic intelligent driver support (London, UK: Taylor & Francis).

Ministerial_Conference (2020), ‘Stockholm Declaration’, 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety, Stockholm, Sweden, 19–20 February 2020.

PWC (2019), ‘The future of mobility’, Price Cooper Waterhouse, accessed 2023-05-18.

SAE (2018), ‘Taxonomy and Definitions for Terms Related to Driving Automation Systems for On-Road Motor Vehicles’, SAE International, 3016_202104.

SWOV (2006), ‘Advancing Sustainable Safety: National Road Safety Outlook for 2005-2020’, SWOV Institute for Road Safety Research (Leidschendam, the Netherlands).

SWOV (2022), ‘Road deaths in the Netherlands’, SWOV, Institute for Road Safety Research, Fact sheet.

Theeuwes, J. (2021), ‘Self-explaining roads: What does visual cognition tell us about designing safer roads’, Cognitive Research: Principles and Implications, 6.

Theeuwes, J., J. Godthelp (1995), ‘Self-explaining roads’, Safety Science, 19(2–3), 217–225.

Tinga, A. M., I. M. van Zeumeren, M. Christoph, E. van Grondelle, D. Cleij, A. Aldea, N. van Nes (2023), ‘Development and evaluation of a human machine interface to support mode awareness in different automated driving modes’, Transportation Research Part F: Traffic Psychology and Behaviour, 92, 238–254.

UN (2020), ‘Improving global road safety’, United Nations, General Assembly, Resolution 74/299, 2 September 2020.

UN (n/d), ‘Sustainable Development Goals’, United Nations,, accessed 2023-05-18.

UNEP (2020), ‘Used Vehicles and the Environment: A Global Overview of Used Light Duty Vehicles - Flow, Scale and Regulation’, United Nations Environment Programme.

Vaa, T., T. Assum, R. Elvik (2014), ‘Driver support systems: Estimating road safety effects at varying levels of implementation’, Institute of Transport Economics (Oslo, Norway), TØI Report 1304/2014.

van Geem, C., S. Charman, A. Ahern, A. Anund, L. Sjögren, A. Pumberger, G. Grayson, S. Helman (2013), ‘Speed Adaptation Control by Self Explaining Roads (SPACE)’, 16th Road Safety on Four Continents Conference, Beijing, China, 15–17 May 2013.

Welle, N., A. B. Sharpin, C. Adriazola-Steil, S. Job, M. Shotten, D. Bose, A. Bhatt, S. Alveano, M. Obelheiro, T. Imamoglu (2018), ‘Sustainable & Safe: a Vision and Guidance for Zero Road Deaths’, World Resources Institute.

WHO (2010), ‘Decade of Action for Road Safety’, World Health Organization,, accessed 2023-05-17.

WHO (2015), in and others (ed.), Second Global High- level Conference on Road Safety: Time for Results, Brasilia, Brasil, 18–19 November 2015.

WHO (2018), ‘Global status report on road safety’, World Health Organization (Geneva, Switzerland).

Wilmink, I., W. Janssen, E. Jonkers, K. Malone, M. Van Noort, G. Klunder, P. Rämä, N. Sihvola, Kulmala, A. Schirokoff, G. Lind, T. Benz, H. Peters, Schönebeck (2008), ‘Impact assessment of intelligent vehicle safety systems’, eIMPACT, Deliverable D4.




How to Cite

Godthelp, H. (2023). Towards a safe system in low- and middle-income countries: vehicles that guide drivers on self-explaining roads. Traffic Safety Research, 5, 000029.