It is estimated that more than 1.2 million people die worldwide as a result of road traffic crashes and some 50 million are injured per annum. At present some Western countries' road safety strategies and countermeasures claim to have developed into 'Safe Systems' models to address the effects of road related crashes. Well-constructed models encourage effective strategies to improve road safety. This review aimed to identify and summarise concise descriptions, or 'models' of safety. The review covers information from a wide variety of fields and contexts including transport, occupational safety, food industry, education, construction and health. The information from 2620 candidate references were selected and summarised in 121 examples of different types of model and contents. The language of safety models and systems was found to be inconsistent. Each model provided additional information regarding style, purpose, complexity and diversity. In total, seven types of models were identified. The categorisation of models was done on a high level with a variation of details in each group and without a complete, simple and rational description. The models identified in this review are likely to be adaptable to road safety and some of them have previously been used. None of systems theory, safety management systems, the risk management approach, or safety culture was commonly or thoroughly applied to road safety. It is concluded that these approaches have the potential to reduce road trauma. © 2014 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.