Road traffic crashes are predictable and therefore preventable … the time to act is now. Road users everywhere deserve better and safer road travel.
World Health Organisation (2004)
In October 1997 the Swedish Parliament adopted its “Vision Zero” (VZ) road safety policy. VZ sets a target of zero deaths and zero serious injuries in the road traffic environment and puts the responsibility for achieving this goal on all those responsible for the total road safety system. This means that the detailed design of the road, the vehicle and driving behaviour must be tackled as a “total system” so that “a mistake in the road traffic environment does not carry the death penalty”.
This approach is an ethical and civilised response to the unacceptability of road death and serious injury.
Vision Zero has been adopted in Vienna, New York, Blackpool and Edinburgh and has been accepted as a long term target by the European Commission.
Vision Zero sets a long term target of zero deaths and serious injuries in the road traffic environment and emphasises a process of continuous improvement and highly effective cooperation to eliminate death and serious injury.
The zero target is both an ethical and a practical necessity. It is unarguable that we should do as much as possible to reach zero and harness the full potential of safe systems and system design to reach zero. It is also agreed that “active travel” (much higher levels of walking and cycling) is essential for quality of life and health and Vision Zero puts the elimination of danger and fear at the centre of system design with the objective of increasing walking and cycling levels.
VZ is transformational. Doing more of the same is not good enough and system designers have a shared responsibility with users to contribute to the achievement of zero.
VZ is a total commitment to achieving zero with direct links to reducing health damaging air pollution, reducing carbon emissions in line with national climate change targets and stripping out fear and danger in the road traffic environment to produce a significant increase in walking and cycling.
VZ recognises that there are significant differences between rural and urban areas that go beyond geography. The central ethical core of VZ applies in full to both urban and rural areas but special attention will need to be given to rural roads, speed limits and the dangers associated with so-called trunk roads/arterial roads when they meet hamlets, villages and towns of various sizes. Safety and the elimination of danger come first. Sustainable mobility requires putting safety first.
Sweden is the best performer in the EU 28 on 3 traditional measures of road safety:
- Fatalities per million people
- Fatalities per 10 billion passenger kilometres (pkm)
- Fatalities per million cars
Source: Pocket Book 2015, (page 102). European Commission
What would a Vision Zero UK look like?
- A political target at local and/or national level of zero by a stated date and intermediate outcome targets towards it with data released yearly on performance.
- 30kph (20mph) default speed limit – where the default is currently 30mph’
- Major upgrade of urban design to create the best possible conditions (total safe systems approach) for walking and cycling.
- Blood alcohol limit set at the Swedish level (0.02%). England and Wales is currently 0.08%
- A zero tolerance of speeding and the introduction of the Swiss system for linking speeding fines to wealth and degree of speeding (Note 1)
- A zero tolerance policy for drug taking and driving
- Collision investigation agency modelled on the Swedish experience and independent of the police
- A direct link between the results of a collision investigation and actions taken to prevent a recurrence of the circumstances that contributed to the fatality or serious injury
- Law reform to deal with citizen concern about severe outcomes being dealt with “leniently” and a judicial system that respects those affected by death and injury
- A presumption in all legal procedures and road safety policies that there is a duty of care on drivers to pedestrians and cyclists and this duty recognises the important differences between those responsible for causing death and injury whilst in control of a vehicle and the victims of crashes and collisions
- Road traffic reduction based on proven interventions (travel plans, PJP, spatial planning, urban logistics)
- Urban design to deliver clear road traffic danger reduction for vulnerable users
- Changes to the system of driver education, training and testing towards the Swedish model of deep learning which includes a full understanding of VZ, rigorous testing and clarity that all drivers have duties and responsibilities but no rights beyond the “right to life” that all users of the system have
- Adopt the Swedish model that those drivers caught speeding within 2 years of passing the test have their licence withdrawn
- Utilise lengthy driving bans in cases of clear anti-social behaviour on roads
- Partnership working and shared responsibility for achieving VZ between Government, urban designers, relevant manufacturers, businesses for their staff travel, police, judiciary and all road users.
- VZ does not endorse any road safety intervention that shifts blame and responsibility onto vulnerable users. We respect the personal decisions of any user to wear high viz clothing, helmets etc but this is not part of VZ. We do not accept the removal of trees from roadsides or highway and we do not support brutal urban design to populate streets with metal railings, underpasses, overbridges etc.
VZUK fully supports the work of other organisations that share this agenda e.g. RoadPeace, Sustrans, PACTS, Brake, 20’s Plenty for Us and the Road Danger Reduction Forum
Twitter: follow @visionzerouk
E-mail address for further information: firstname.lastname@example.org
Note 1 – Guardian