When the concept of Vision Zero was introduced in 1997, it transformed the view of road safety work. Instead of trying to prevent all accidents, the goal is for no one to die or be seriously injured in a road accident. The initiative has led to a halving of deaths on Swedish roads.
Sweden has a long history and solid reputation in road safety solutions. Vision Zero was an initiative by the Swedish government with the ambitious goal of eliminating road traffic deaths and serious injuries. Vision Zero states that no one should be killed or suffer lifelong injury from a road traffic accident. This ensures that the view of road transport safety matches the values that apply to safety in society as a whole. In working life and within the rail, shipping and air transport sectors, it goes without saying that no deaths should occur as a result of accidents.
Halving the number of deaths
Vision Zero has been very successful, halving the number deaths on Swedish roads since the turn of the millennium. It has also been embraced by a number of countries and cities that want to learn from Sweden’s work and experience. The WHO expects traffic accidents to be the fifth most common cause of death by 2030, and Vision Zero is a model for changing this.
A different view of road traffic
According to Vision Zero, the main problem is not that accidents occur but that many of them lead to death or lifelong injury. So instead of trying to prevent them from happening, the idea is to find solutions and change the traffic system so that accidents will not have serious consequences. Vision Zero regards the road transport system as an entity in which different components such as roads, vehicles and road users must be made to interact with each other so that safety can be guaranteed. To prevent serious consequences from accidents, it’s essential for roads and vehicles to be adapted to match the capabilities of the people that use them.
A broad range of actions
There are many examples of measures that increase traffic safety, such as increased use of barriers, wire rails and other technologies, speed-limiting solutions, crumple zones, and separation of traffic. One important area is an increased focus on the safety of unprotected road users. Looking to the future, Sweden is also very active in developing technology for autonomous vehicles and other solutions that aim to eliminate human error.
A key success factor for Vision Zero is its wide-ranging collaboration, involving many different stakeholders from authorities like Trafikverket (the Swedish Transport Administration) to companies such as car manufacturers and infrastructure and tech businesses. These organisations can share their knowledge and contribute to new approaches and innovations that other countries can benefit and learn from.