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Increase road safety or reduce road danger: challenging the mainstream road safety discourse




discourse, road danger, road safety, systemic violence, worldviews


The domain of road safety has a longstanding history in academic research and a well-established position in policy circles. In different contexts in different degrees, this has resulted in important and meaningful interventions that increased overall safety statistics. But are researchers and policy-makers in this domain also reflecting on the underlying values and worldviews on which these interventions are build? Do we fully grasp the choices that are embedded in those values and on how these then solidify into our guidelines, streetscapes and behaviour? In this position paper, I argue that those underlying choices are exactly what is holding back real radical change in making our roads and traffic safe. To do so, I discuss seven mechanisms in how road safety is currently studied, discussed and designed that might aggravate the inherent unsafety it aims to reduce. Building on this, the final part of the paper aims to open up the underlying values by proposing seven potential ‘what-ifs’ away from focusing on increasing road safety to instead explicitly focus on reducing the systemic danger.


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Author Biography

Marco te Brömmelstroet, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands

Marco te Brömmelstroet holds the chair of Urban Mobility Futures at the University of Amsterdam. He is the founding academic director of The Lab of Thought and chairman of the Urban Cycling Institute. His research centers on the worldviews that underlie our mobility thinking and he actively explores alternatives.

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


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How to Cite

te Brömmelstroet, M. (2024). Increase road safety or reduce road danger: challenging the mainstream road safety discourse. Traffic Safety Research, 5, e000043.