Vision Zero is a road traffic safety project started in Sweden in 1997 which aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic. A core principle of the vision is that 'Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society' rather than the more conventional approach where a monetary value is placed on life and health which is then used with a Benefit-cost ratio evaluation before investing money in the road network to decrease risk.
Vision Zero is based on four principles:
- Ethics: Human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system
- Responsibility: providers and regulators of the road traffic system share responsibility with users;
- Safety: road traffic systems should take account of human fallibility and minimize both the opportunities for errors and the harm done when they occur; and
- Mechanisms for change: providers and regulators must do their utmost to guarantee the safety of all citizens; they must cooperate with road users; and all three must be ready to change to achieve safety.
Vision Zero suggests the following "possible long term maximum travel speeds related to the infrastructure, given best practice in vehicle design and 100% restraint use". These speeds are based on human and automobile limits. For example, the human tolerance for a pedestrian hit by a well-designed car is approximately 30 km/h. If a higher speed in urban areas is desired, the option is to separate pedestrian crossings from the traffic. If not, pedestrian crossings, or zones (or vehicles), must be designed to generate speeds of a maximum of 30 km/h. Similarly, the inherent safety of well-designed cars can be anticipated to be a maximum of 70 km/h in frontal impacts, and 50 km/h in side impacts. Speeds over 100 km/h can be tolerated if the infrastructure is designed to prevent frontal and side impacts.
|Type of infrastructure and traffic||Possible travel speed (km/h)|
|Locations with possible conflicts between pedestrians and cars||30 km/h (19 mph)|
|Intersections with possible side impacts between cars||50 km/h (31 mph)|
|Roads with possible frontal impacts between cars, including rural roads||70 km/h (43 mph)|
|Roads with no possibility of a side impact or frontal impact (only impact with the infrastructure)||100 km/h (62 mph)+|
"Roads with no possibility of a side impact or frontal impact" are sometimes designated as Type 1 ( motorways/freeways/Autobahns ), Type 2 ("2+2 roads") or Type 3 ("2+1 roads"). These roadways have crash barriers separating opposing traffic, limited access, grade separation and prohibitions on slower and more vulnerable road users. Undivided rural roads can be quite dangerous even with speed limits that appear low by comparison. In 2012, German rural roads, which are generally limited to 100 km/h (62 mph), had a fatality rate of 7.6 deaths per billion-travel-kilometers, higher than the 5.1 rate on urban streets (generally limited to 50 km/h (31 mph)), and far higher than the autobahn rate of 1.7; autobahns carried 31% of motorized road traffic while accounting for 11% of Germany's traffic deaths.
In the Netherlands, the sustainable safety approach differs from Vision Zero in that it acknowledges that in the majority of accidents humans are to blame, and that roads should be designed to be "self-explaining" thus reducing the likelihood of crashes. Self-explaining roads are easy to use and navigate, it being self-evident to road users where they should be and how they should behave.
More recently the Dutch have introduced the idea that roads should also be "forgiving", i.e. designed to lessen the outcome of a traffic collision when the inevitable does occur, principles which are at the core of both the Dutch and Swedish policies.
In 1997 the Swedish Parliament introduced a "Vision Zero" policy that requires that fatalities and serious injurious are reduced to zero by 2020. This is a significant step change in transport policy at the European level. All new roads are built to this standard and older roads are modified.
Transport appraisal in the United Kingdom is based on New Approach to Appraisal which was first published in 1998 and updated in 2007. In 2006 the Stockholm Environment Institute wrote a report at the request of the UK Department for Transport titled 'Vision zero: Adopting a Target of Zero for Road Traffic Fatalities and Serious Injuries'. In 2008 the Road Safety Foundation published a report proposing on UK road safety which referenced Vision Zero. The Campaign for Safe Road Design is a partnership between 13 UK major road safety stakeholders that is calling for the UK Government to invest in a safe road infrastructure which in their view could cut deaths on British roads by 33%. In 2014, the UK city of Brighton & Hove adopted vision zero in its 'Safer Roads' strategy, predicated on the safe systems approach, alongside the introduction of an ISO accredited road traffic safety management system to ISO:39001
- San Francisco: In January 2014, San Francisco District Supervisors Jane Kim, Norman Yee, and John Avalos introduced Vision Zero plan for San Francisco, where there were 25 pedestrian and bicyclist deaths in 2013 alone. San Francisco's Vision Zero plan calls for investing in engineering, enforcement, and education, and focusing on dangerous intersections.
- New York City: In January 2014, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced adoption of Vision Zero and enumerated a long list of initiatives the city would be following to reduce fatalities on city streets. Among the measures it plans to take includes pushing for changes in the State legislature to allow the city more control in the administration of traffic safety measures such as speed reduction.
- Boston: In March 2014, Boston personal injury attorney John Sheehan started the Vision Zero Auto Accident Prevention Scholarship to encourage young adults to consider the tangible benefits of safer driving. The firm hopes that the scholarship will open a dialogue with the City of Boston to implement Vision Zero policies. The law school scholarship looks at an applicants driving record in addition to a short essay to determine selection of the winner.
Other safety initiatives
Across Europe EuroRAP, the European Road Assessment Programme is bringing together a partnership of motoring organisations, vehicle manufacturers and road authorities to develop protocols for identifying and communicating road accident risk and to develop tools and best practice guidelines for engineering safer roads. EuroRAP aims to support governments in meeting their Vision Zero targets.
The "Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area" issued in 2011 by the European Commission states in point 2.5 (9): "By 2050, move close to zero fatalities in road transport. In line with this goal, the EU aims at halving road casualties by 2020."
The United Nations has more modest goals. Its "Decade of Action for Road Safety" is founded on a goal to "stabilize and then reduce" road traffic fatalities by 2020. It established the Road Safety Fund "to encourage donor, private sector and public support for the implementation of a Global Plan of Action.
Ten years after initiation of Vision Zero in Norway, results have been unimpressive. "The zero vision has drawn more attention to road safety, but it has not yielded any significant short-term gains so far," a staff engineer at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration said.
Sweden, which initiated Vision Zero, had somewhat better results. With a population of about 9.6 million, Sweden has a long tradition in setting quantitative road traffic safety targets. In the mid-1990s a 10-year target was set at a 50% reduction for 2007. This target was not met; the actual ten-year reduction was 13% to 471 deaths. The target was revised to 50% by 2020 and to 0 deaths by 2050. In 2009 the reduction from 1997 totals was 34.5% to 355 deaths. Sweden's fatality reduction of 39% between 2000 and 2009 was exceeded by reductions in several other countries, such as France, Germany, Spain, and Norway.
It's worth noting that traffic volume in Sweden increased significantly over the same period.
- See for example, Ezra Hauer, "Computing what the Public wants: Some issues in road safety cost-benefit analysis", Accident Analysis and Prevention, January 2011
- "Sweden's Vision Zero: no fatalities or serious injuries in road traffic". World Health Organisation. Retrieved 2010-04-15.[dead link]
- Claes Tingvall and Narelle Haworth. "Vision Zero - An ethical approach to safety and mobility". "Table 1. Possible long term maximum travel speeds related to the infrastructure, given best practice in vehicle design and 100% restraint use..."
- "EU wants to slash rural speed limit". Irish Independent newspaper. 2010-10-13. Retrieved 2010-11-10. "Europe's top road safety agency warned yesterday that the speed limit on our killer rural roads is too high and should be slashed by a third...The general speed limit of 100kmh on main rural roads which do not have dividing crash barriers should be cut to 70kmh or less, an official report recommended yesterday."
- "NRA New Divided Road Types: Type 2 and Type 3 Dual-carriageways". (Ireland) National Road Authority. Retrieved 2010-11-22. "Type 2 Dual Carriageway: A divided all-purpose road with two lanes in each direction Type 3 Dual Carriageway: A divided all purpose road with two lanes in one direction of travel and one lane in the other direction. the two-lane section, which provides the overtaking opportunity, alternates with a one-lane section at intervals"
- http://www.bast.de (December 2012). "Traffic and Accident Data: Summary Statistics – Germany" (PDF). Bundesanstalt für Straßenwesen (Federal Highway Research Institute). Bundesanstalt für Straßenwesen. Retrieved 2014-04-07.
- Hill, Joanne. "Getting Ahead: Returning Britain to European leadership in road casualty reduction" (PDF). Road Safety Foundation. Retrieved 2008-10-01.
- "Vision zero: Adopting a Target of Zero for Road Traffic Fatalities and Serious Injuries". Department for Transport. 2006. Retrieved 2010-04-15.
- Kwong, Jessica (February 19, 2014). "SF takes step forward in education for pedestrians, cyclists and drivers". San Francisco Examiner. Retrieved 26 February 2014.
- New York vision Zero
- Vision Zero Auto Accident Prevention Scholarship
- Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area
- "UN Decade of Action for Road Safety 2011-2020". Road Safety fund. FIA foundation / WHO. Retrieved 8 March 2014.
- "Aiming to Reduce Fatal Traffic Accidents: Zero Vision, Zero Results?". Retrieved 2008-11-13. "Since the mid-1990s, the number of people killed in road accidents has not decreased significantly. 560 people were killed in traffic accidents in 1970. Fifteen years on, there were fewer than 300. The National Transport Plan 2002-2011 was launched in 1999, and the zero vision with it. Since then, the number of fatalities has remained largely unchanged."
- Anders Lie and Claes Tingvall. "GOVERNMENT STATUS REPORT, SWEDEN". Swedish Road Administration.
- "Does the Vision Zero work?". Retrieved 2014-04-15. "we can clearly see that road deaths have continued to decrease despite a steady rise in traffic."