Sweden’s ‘Vision Zero’ Scheme

By | December 28, 2011

A revolutionary approach to traffic safety, the Vision Zero project, initiated in Sweden in 1997, has set-out to eliminate traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries by 2020. According to the ‘Vision Zero’ website, almost 1.2 million people die in traffic-related accidents every year. However, under the Vision Zero scheme, no loss of life is acceptable. As the name ‘Vision Zero’ suggests, leaders of this initiative hope to one day see the number ‘0’ listed in a yearly report of traffic-related deaths and injuries.

Leaders of the Vision Zero initiative believe that traffic safety should be approached with the understanding that humans are fallible. They argue that nuclear power, aviation, the rail system and a range of other potentially dangerous industries all have safety systems set-up under the assumption that those who operate them make mistakes. However, Vision Zero advocates say that traffic safety focuses solely on driver responsibility, rather than recognising the reality that drivers are imperfect.

In its unique approach, Vision Zero takes human behaviour into account when designing traffic systems and places more responsibility for traffic safety on system design, management and leadership. This philosophy is exemplified in the Vision Zero tagline, which says: “In every situation a person might fail, the road system should not.”

According to the vision zero website, this method is very effective. There is site data which shows that traffic has steadily increased since the 1950s, yet traffic accidents have declined, reaching an all-time-low in 2009.

The Vision Zero method has been deemed so successful, that it has spread to other regions of the world. For example, a group of students at Portland State University in the U.S. state of Oregon have started “Vision Zero Oregon,” which is modelled after Sweden’s world-famous traffic safety initiative. Similarly, the Transportation Alternatives group, located in New York City, have initiated “Vision Zero NYC” and published a report on how this approach could save the lives of more than 100 New Yorkers every year.

As cycling accident claims continue to rise in the UK, some have suggested that Britain, or at least the city of London, adopt a similar traffic safety initiative. According to ‘Cycling Weekly,’ traffic safety advocates and members of the London Cycling Campaign have called on London mayor Boris Johnson to adopt a new traffic safety strategy that is similar to Vision Zero.

Thus, Vision Zero is clear in its objective to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and serious injuries. It has set an ambitious deadline of 2020 and, though there’s still a long way to go in achieving its goal, Vision Zero has already shown positive results. In addition to what it’s done for Sweden, Vision Zero’s influence on other countries and regions of the world could only multiply its success.