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Road safety audit (RSA) procedures for projects

The material below is extracted from the Road safety audit procedures for projects guide, which provides guidelines for road safety audit procedures in New Zealand. It updates and replaces the road safety audit procedures for projects guideline (Transfund New Zealand, 2004, TFM9). Note: This page is guidance only. Please consult the full guide available via the link above.

Road safety audit (RSA) definition

A road safety audit is a term used internationally to describe an independent review of a future road project to identify anything that may affect the road’s safety. The audit team considers the safety of all road users and qualitatively reports on road safety issues and opportunities to improve safety.

A road safety audit is intended to help deliver a safe road system and is not a review of compliance with standards.


The primary objective of a road safety audit is to help ensure a project achieves an outcome consistent with Safer Journeys and the Safe System approach – that is, minimisation of death and serious injury. The road safety audit identifies all areas of a project that are inconsistent with a safe system and brings those concerns to the attention of the client, so the client can choose appropriate action(s) based on the risk guidance provided by the safety audit team.

The main reason for a road safety audit is 'to deliver completed projects that contribute towards a safe road system that is increasingly free of death and serious injury by identifying and ranking potential safety concerns for all road users and others affected by a road project.'

Essential elements

A road safety audit must:

  • focus on the safety aspects of the project
  • be carried out by people who are independent of the client, designer or contractor
  • be carried out by people with appropriate experience and training, and who understand the Safe System approach
  • be a formal documented process
  • consider all potential road users
  • include a formal documented response from the client.

However, a road safety audit is not intended to be:

  • a substitute for a quality control review, a design review or a peer review
  • a judgement of the quality of a project (as the project will likely have other components)
  • a compliance check with standards, guidelines or drawings and specifications (a separate review is required for this purpose noting that compliance with standards or other documents does not necessarily result in a safe system)
  • a redesign of a project
  • an informal check, inspection or consultation
  • a means of ranking or comparing one project or option over another (although it may form part of the decision process).

Engineering standards and guidelines provide a sound starting point from which a good design can evolve. However, their application alone does not necessarily result in the safest road environment. Road safety audits provide a further means of checking road safety outcomes.

When to undertake a road safety audit (RSA)

A road safety audit should be undertaken at project milestones such as:

  • concept stage (part of a business case)
  • scheme or preliminary design stage (part of pre-implementation)
  • detailed design stage (pre-implementation or implementation)
  • pre-opening or post-construction stage (implementation or post-implementation).

These milestones align approximately with the development cycle of a project. These stages should not be seen as rigid, as all projects are not the same and smaller projects will not always follow all the development stages. The stages of a road safety audit should match the project’s complexity and actual development stages. However, the earlier an audit is undertaken, the easier and less expensive it is to make changes. Conducting a road safety audit only at the post-construction stage should be avoided, as often it is too late to make significant improvements if required.

It is recommended that each road controlling authority embed the requirements for a road safety audit of projects in appropriate policy documents, including but not limited to asset plans, safety management systems and development codes. As a minimum it is recommended that a road safety audit be undertaken at the design stage for all works within a public space. For requirements specific to a particular road controlling authority, refer to the policy of that authority.

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