EASTS’23 Conference: Profiling Transport + Road Safety Research in Asia

Shane Turner attended the biannual Eastern Asia Society for Transportation Studies (EASTS) held in Shah Alam, Kuala Lumpur from 4-7 September 2023 and shares his experience and insights from this conference.

This was the first time the conference had been held in Malaysia and I was honoured to attend as part of the New Zealand chapter of EASTS. Along with Jean-Paul Thull from the New Zealand chapter, we were also joined by at least four members of the Australian chapter.

In addition to attending the conference sessions, I presented a paper on our Indonesia road safety work, chaired a session on accident analysis and judged the young author posters. I also assisted with the manning of the Australasian College of Road Safety (ACRS) booth, where we promoted the work on the College and benefits of membership.  As part of the technical tour, we visited a very modern and well-designed MRT station and had a briefing on the current and proposed elevated MRT network.   

Over 500 papers were presented at the conference, with topics across the transport sector, through 11 concurrent sessions with 9 presentation streams and 5 poster sessions.  In addition to Malaysians, there was a high number of papers and attendees from Japan, Taiwan and India.  There were many road safety presentations and posters, several of which involved research around Asia specific safety issues, and especially motorcycle safety.


There were also several keynote speakers and plenary discussion forums. One of these forums ‘Bridging the Gap in Mobility’ included discussion on Road Safety, with one of the panel members being Ingrid Johnston, the CEO of ACRS.  Other key topic mentioned in the plenary sessions were the:

  1. UN 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with a transport focus especially:
  • SDG3: Ensuring Healthy Lives (with goal 3.6 being to half road crash deaths and injuries by 2030),
  • SDG9: Building Resilient Infrastructure, Promote Inclusive and Sustainable Industrialisation and Foster Innovation, and
  • SDG11: Making Cities and Human Settlements Inclusive, Safe and Sustainable.

2. The five mega/major trends/challenges facing society; 1. Climate Change, 2. Ageing Infrastructure, 3. Technology Dependent Populations, 4. Older Population and 5. Rapid Urbanisation. Discussion on how does transport need to respond to these trends.     

3. Poor Data Availability and Quality, especially in LMICs. Not measuring transport problems, makes it harder to develop focused programs to fix them. The increased availability of big data and AI could help fill data gaps.

4. Key transport areas that need much more focus in LMIC, including 1) road safety, 2) enforcement effectiveness (e.g. speed limits) and resilience to disasters. Lack of progress in these areas is holding back LMICs in prospering.

5. Importance of Capacity Building. There needs to be more training available in traffic engineering fundamentals (including road safety) and sustainable transport.    

There was a lot of interesting material presented in the road safety area, including:

  1. Inequity in Safety – mainly low-income people carry the higher burden of trauma. Unlike in developed countries, when the main breadwinner is killed or seriously injured, there is very little support for low-income families to survive.
  2. Safe Community Movement – empowering communities to develop strategies that make their communities safer across the board, including road safety and crime.

    3. Lack of Quality Crash Data – crash data is limited in many LMIC countries, even for fatal and serious injury crashes. In the Philippines they also found that the reports available for motorcycles crashes were often incomplete.

    4. Studies of motorcycle behavior, motorcycle training, motorcycle crash trends and effectiveness of motorcycle facilities (e.g. motorcycle lanes and speed humps). Effectiveness of facilities was generally assessed using road safety surrogates like traffic conflicts (near misses) and speed. One study found that the speed of vehicles and the route they take (sometimes weaving through lanes of traffic) when making right turns at traffic signals had a major impact on trauma crash risk.

    5. Use of big data (like Tom Tom and Google traffic and location data) to star rate (iRAP ) high risk networks (AiRAP).

While a number of studies looked at motorcyclist safety there is still a big gap in the understanding of how to build safer infrastructure for this mode.  Also, there is limited research on the effectiveness of safety improvement treatments.  According to WHO, exclusive motorcycle lanes are the only treatment with a robust crash reduction factor.  Given the issues with obtaining quality crash data in LMICs, the emphasis should be on using surrogate measures, like reducing traffic conflicts and speed, to measure effectiveness.

Many of these topics need further discussion.  Watch this space for more blogs.    

The next EASTS conference will be in October 2025 in Surakarta, Java, Indonesia. For more information on EASTS refer to: https://easts.info/isc/

kualar lumpar EASTS conference