Important road safety improvements are now being planned for Brazil in a bid to reduce the country’s worryingly high road casualty rate. Improved road design with better sight lines, the installation of crash barriers and speed reduction measures are expected to help reduce the rate of serious crashes.
Brazil’s high rate of road crashes, as well as the casualty rate for people being killed or seriously injured (KSI) give serous cause for concern. The human toll is massive, while also having a negative effect on the country’s economy. A study by the National Traffic Confederation (CNT) shows that crashes on Brazil’s Federal Highway network cost US$1.94 billion in 2020. However, spending on road improvements in Brazil has fallen short in 2020, reaching just $1.27 billion.
The plan is to improve the country’s roads, making them more forgiving. New road concessions being awarded in Paraná State from 2022 will require the routes to have more safety features. Within 10 years, all key highways will have to meet the UN Member States’ recommended star safety rating and have at least three stars according to Brazil’s Ministry of Infrastructure. The aim is to then gradually improve major highways further so that they have first four and then five stars under the UN recommended safety rating. Although Paraná State is leading the way in boosting road safety, other states are expected to follow suit.
The road improvement work in Paraná State will follow proven International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP) techniques that are intended to highlight the shortcomings of roads with high crash rates and then find suitable methods to upgrade them. The new requirement means that road concession holders will have to carry out suitable studies and then make road sections more ‘forgiving’ for drivers. The concept from iRAP of more forgiving highways with a new road safety education programme is expected to further reduce road casualties.
Although Brazil’s road crash rate is high, there have actually been safety improvements in recent years. In Paraná State there were 7,100 crashes on Federal Highways in 2020, resulting in 526 fatalities and around 7,400 serious injuries. But in 2011, there were around 22,200 crashes on Federal Highways, with around 740 fatalities and around 12,400 serious injuries.
According to iRAP, this development demonstrates important and life-saving policy leadership for safety to eliminate high-risk roads. Paraná is an important state in Brazil with large investments in road infrastructure. There are more than 2,500kms of concessions that commenced in 1997 and end in November this year. BrazilRAP is the locally owned and led road assessment programme.