Vision Zero

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Vision Zero is a multi-national road traffic safety project that aims to achieve a highway system with no fatalities or serious injuries involving road traffic. It started in Sweden and was approved by their parliament in October 1997. [1] 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 comparison between costs and benefits, where a monetary value is placed on life and health, and then that value is used to decide how much money to spend on a road network towards the benefit of decreasing risk. [2]


Vision Zero was introduced in 1995. [3] It has been variously adopted in different countries or smaller jurisdictions, although its description varies significantly. The countermeasures implemented in Vision Zero continue to be education, enforcement and engineering, applied since the 1930s.


Roads in Sweden are built with safety prioritised over speed or convenience. Low urban speed-limits, pedestrian zones and barriers that separate cars from bikes and oncoming traffic have helped. Building 1,500 kilometres (900 miles) of "2+1" roads—where each lane of traffic takes turns to use a middle lane for overtaking—is reckoned to have saved around 145 lives over the first decade of Vision Zero --Why Sweden has so few road deaths, The Economist Explains [4] (Feb 26th 2014)

Vision Zero is based on an underlying ethical principle that "it can never be ethically acceptable that people are killed or seriously injured when moving within the road transport system." [5] As an ethics-based approach, Vision Zero functions to guide strategy selection and not to set particular goals or targets. In most road transport systems, road users bear complete responsibility for safety. Vision Zero changes this relationship by emphasizing that responsibility is shared by transportation system designers and road users. [5]

Speed limits

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". [6] 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 (19 mph). [7] [8] 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 (19 mph). Similarly, for occupants, the maximum inherent safe speed of well-designed cars can be anticipated to be a maximum of 70 km/h (43 mph) in frontal impacts, and 50 km/h (31 mph) in side impacts. [7] [8] Speeds over 100 km/h (62 mph) can be tolerated if the infrastructure is designed to prevent frontal and side impacts.

Possible Maximum Travel Speeds
Type of infrastructure and trafficPossible travel speed (km/h)
Locations with possible conflicts between pedestrians and cars30 km/h (19 mph)
Intersections with possible side impacts between cars50 km/h (31 mph)
Roads with possible frontal impacts between cars, including rural roads [9] 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"). [10] 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 2010, German rural roads, which are generally limited to 100 km/h (62 mph), had a fatality rate of 7.7 deaths per billion-travel-kilometers, higher than the 5.2 rate on urban streets (generally limited to 50 km/h (31 mph)), and far higher than the autobahn rate of 2.0; autobahns carried 31% of motorized road traffic while accounting for 11% of Germany's traffic deaths. [11]

A movement to reduce speed limits in residential areas to 20 mph (32 km/h) called "20's Plenty for Us" or "20 is Plenty" started gathering steam in the early 2000's in the UK. [12] [13] [14] It spread to the US in 2010. [15] [16] [17]



In December 2015, the Canadian injury prevention charity Parachute presented the Vision Zero concept, with Road Safety Strategist Matts Belin of Sweden, to nearly 100 road safety partners. [18]

In November 2016, Parachute hosted a one-day national road safety conference focused on Vision Zero goals and strategies, attended by leaders in health, traffic engineering, police enforcement, policy and advocacy. [19]

From that, the Parachute Vision Zero Network was formed, comprising more than 250 road safety advocates and practitioners, law enforcement, government and municipalities. [20] The network serves to provide a one-stop Canadian destination to connect these stakeholders with one other, and with information and resources to help communities address road safety challenges, using proven solutions. [21]

The second Parachute Vision Zero Summit was held in October 2017, attended by network members and politicians, including Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca. [22]

Another organization, Vision Zero Canada (, launched their national campaign in December 2015. [23]

Efforts in Canadian cities:


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. [33] The Dutch also prevent dangerous differences in mass, speeds and/or directions from mixing. Roundabouts create crossings on an otherwise 50 or 50 km/h (31 mph) road that are slow enough, 30 km/h (19 mph), to permit pedestrians and cyclists to cross in safety. Mopeds, cyclists and pedestrians are kept away from cars on separate paths above 30 km/h (19 mph) in the built up area. Buses are also often given dedicated lanes, preventing their large mass from conflicting with low mass ordinary cars.

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. [34]


In 1997 the Swedish Parliament introduced a "Vision Zero" policy that requires that fatalities and serious injuries are reduced to zero by 2020. This is a significant step-change in transport policy at the European level.[ citation needed ] All new roads are built to this standard and older roads are modified.[ citation needed ]. Vision Zero also incorporated other countermeasures targeting drivers and vehicles. It is worth noting that Sweden's road death toll was declining prior to 1997 and continued to do so under Vision Zero. However, the number of deaths has not improved since 2013.

Fatalities in Sweden
source Eurostat [35]

United Kingdom

Transport appraisal in the United Kingdom is based on New Approach to Appraisal which was first published in 1998 and updated in 2007. UK road safety plans have some similarities with Vision Zero, but do not specifically adopt it in the UK. 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'. [36] In 2008 the Road Safety Foundation published a report proposing on UK road safety which referenced Vision Zero. [34] 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%.[ citation needed ] In 2007 Blackpool was the first British City to declare a vision zero target. In 2014 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. Edinburgh adopted a Road Safety Action Plan: Working Towards Vision Zero in May 2010 which "commits to providing a safe and modern road network where all users are safe from the risk of being killed or seriously injured". [37] Northern Ireland's DOE has a Share the road to zero" policy for zero deaths. Bristol adopted a safe systems approach in March 2015. Transport for London (TfL) say they are working towards zero KSI. UK Vision Zero campaigns include Vision Zero London and Vision Zero UK. Project EDWARD (Every Day Without A Road Death) was established in 2016 and is an annual UK-wide road safety campaign managed by the Association for Road Risk Management (ARRM) and RoadSafe which promotes an evidence-led "safe system" approach to create a road traffic system free from death and serious injury. Following a public consultation held in mid-2019, a 20mph speed limit was imposed on all central London roads, which are managed by Transport for London. [38] [39]

United States (cities/regions/states)

Not yet adopted but in the works


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. [84] EuroRAP aims to support governments in meeting their Vision Zero targets.[ citation needed ]

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." [85]

United Nations

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. [86]


Despite some countries borrowing some ideas from the Vision Zero project, it has been noted that the richer countries have been making outstanding progress in reducing traffic deaths while the poorer countries tend to see an increase in traffic fatalities due to increased motorization. [4] Some locales have seen divergent results between the number of accidents and injuries on the one hand, and the number of deaths; in the first four years of the plan's implementation in New York City, for example, traffic injuries and traffic crashes have been increasing, though deaths have decreased. [42]

Road fatalities in 2013, with comparison to 1980, by country
Country [87] 1980 killed2013 killed2013/1980 percent2013 killed per million population2013 killed per 100 billion vehicle-kilometers
Czech Republic1,26165552.9621,573
South Korea6,4495,09279.01011,720
United Kingdom6,1821,77028.628348
United States51,09132,71964.0104680


Norway adopted its version of Vision Zero in 1999. In 2008, a staff engineer at the Norwegian Public Roads Administration said "The zero vision has drawn more attention to road safety, but it has not yielded any significant short-term gains so far." [88] Traffic fatalities in Norway has nevertheless continued to decline as time has passed by, and 2020 marked the important milestone of being the first year in Norwegian history to see fewer than 100 road fatalities; 95 people died on Norwegian roads that year. The Norwegian Road Authorities announced that the number of annual fatalities had been cut by more than 80% since the worst year of 1970 when 560 people lost their lives on Norwegian roads – this despite the amount of traffic having more than quadrupled since than. [89]


Sweden, which initiated Vision Zero, has had somewhat better results than Norway. 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.

Number of fatalities on Swedish roads [90] [91] [92] [93] [94]
Accident yearFatalities

Traffic volume in Sweden increased steadily over the same period. [95]

Dominican Republic

Vision Zero has influenced other countries, such as the Dominican Republic. The country, despite having the deadliest traffic in the world, has managed to get to a point where only forty Dominicans die per 100,000 Dominicans each year, by following a set of guidelines based on the similar goal of reducing traffic fatalities. [4]

See also

Related Research Articles

Speed limit Maximum or minimum legal speed of vehicles

Speed limits are used in most countries to set the legal maximum, middle or minimum speed at which vehicles may travel on a given stretch of road. Speed limits are generally indicated on a traffic sign reflecting the maximum, middle or minimum permitted expressed as kilometres per hour (km/h) and/or miles per hour (mph). Speed limits are commonly set by the legislative bodies of national or provincial governments and enforced by national or regional police and judicial authorities. Speed limits may also be variable, or in some places nonexistent, such as on most of the Autobahn in Germany.

Pedestrian Person traveling on foot

A pedestrian is a person travelling on foot, whether walking or running. In modern times, the term usually refers to someone walking on a road or pavement, but this was not the case historically.

Traffic calming

Traffic calming uses physical design and other measures to improve safety for motorists, pedestrians and cyclists. It has become a tool to combat speeding and other unsafe behaviours of drivers in the neighbourhoods. It aims to encourage safer, more responsible driving and potentially reduce traffic flow. Urban planners and traffic engineers have many strategies for traffic calming, including narrowed roads and speed humps. Such measures are common in Australia and Europe, but less so in North America. Traffic calming is a calque of the German word Verkehrsberuhigung – the term's first published use in English was in 1985 by Carmen Hass-Klau.

Road traffic safety Methods and measures for reducing the risk of death and injury on roads

Road traffic safety refers to the methods and measures used to prevent road users from being killed or seriously injured. Typical road users include pedestrians, cyclists, motorists, vehicle passengers, horse riders, and passengers of on-road public transport.

Progress in the area of prevention is formulated in an environment of beliefs, called paradigms as can be seen in the next table. Some of them can be referred to as professional folklore, i.e. a widely supported set of beliefs with no real basis. For example, the “accident-prone driver” was a belief that was supported by the data in the sense that a small number of drivers do participate in a disproportionate number of accidents, it follows that the identification and removal of this drivers will reduce crashes. A more scientific analysis of the data indicate that this phenomenon can be explained simply by the random nature of the accidents, and not for a specific error-prone attitude of such drivers.

Risk compensation behavioral theory

Risk compensation is a theory which suggests that people typically adjust their behavior in response to perceived levels of risk, becoming more careful where they sense greater risk and less careful if they feel more protected. Although usually small in comparison to the fundamental benefits of safety interventions, it may result in a lower net benefit than expected.

Bicycle safety

Bicycle safety is the use of road traffic safety practices to reduce risk associated with cycling. Risk can be defined as the number of incidents occurring for a given amount of cycling. Some of this subject matter is hotly debated: for example, the discussions as to whether bicycle helmets or cyclepaths really improve safety. The merits of obeying the rules of the road including the use of bicycle lighting at night are less controversial.

Road diet Transportation planning technique

A road diet, also called a lane reduction, road rechannelization, or road conversion is a technique in transportation planning whereby the number of travel lanes and/or effective width of the road is reduced in order to achieve systemic improvements.

Transportation safety in the United States Overview of transportation safety

Transportation safety in the United States encompasses safety of transportation in the United States, including automobile crashes, airplane crashes, rail crashes, and other mass transit incidents, although the most fatalities are generated by road incidents yearly killing from 32,479 to nearly 38,680 (+19%) in the last decade. The number of deaths per passenger-mile on commercial airlines in the United States between 2000 and 2010 was about 0.2 deaths per 10 billion passenger-miles. For driving, the rate was 150 per 10 billion vehicle-miles for 2000 : 750 times higher per mile than for flying in a commercial airplane.

Speed limits in Australia range from 5 kilometres per hour (3.1 mph) shared zones to 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph). In the Northern Territory four highways have 130 kilometres per hour (81 mph) zones. Speed limit signage is in km/h since metrication on 1 July 1974. All speed limits are multiples of 10 km/h – the last digit in all speed signs is zero. Speed limits are set by state and territory legislation albeit with co-ordination and discussion between governments.

Road collision types Overview of the various types of road traffic collision

Road traffic collisions generally fall into one of four common types:

Traffic collision When a vehicle collides with another object

A traffic collision, also called a motor vehicle collision, car accident, or car crash, occurs when a vehicle collides with another vehicle, pedestrian, animal, road debris, or other stationary obstruction, such as a tree, pole or building. Traffic collisions often result in injury, disability, death, and property damage as well as financial costs to both society and the individuals involved. Road transport is the most dangerous situation people deal with on a daily basis, but casualty figures from such incidents attract less media attention than other, less frequent types of tragedy.

Epidemiology of motor vehicle collisions Overview of the epidemiology of motor vehicle collisions

Worldwide it was estimated that 1.25 million people were killed and many millions more were injured in motor vehicle collisions in 2013. This makes motor vehicle collisions the leading cause of death among young adults of 15–29 years of age and the ninth cause of death for all ages worldwide. In the United States, 40,100 people died and 2.8 million were injured in crashes in 2017, and around 2,000 children under 16 years old die every year. It is estimated that motor vehicle collisions caused the deaths of around 60 million people during the 20th century, around the same as the number of World War II casualties.

Road speed limits in the United Kingdom Overview of road speed limits in the United Kingdom

Road speed limits in the United Kingdom are used to define the maximum legal speed for vehicles using public roads in the UK. Speed limits are one of the measures available to attempt to control traffic speeds, reduce negative environmental effects of traffic, increase fuel use efficiency and satisfy local community wishes. The speed limit in each location is indicated on a nearby traffic sign or by the presence of street lighting. Signs show speed limits in miles per hour (mph) or the national speed limit (NSL) sign may be used.

Road speed limit enforcement in the United Kingdom Overview of the road speed limit enforcement in the United Kingdom

Road speed limit enforcement in the United Kingdom is the action taken by appropriately empowered authorities to attempt to persuade road vehicle users to comply with the speed limits in force on the UK's roads. Methods used include those for detection and prosecution of contraventions such as roadside fixed speed cameras, average speed cameras, and police-operated LIDAR speed guns or older radar speed guns. Vehicle activated signs and Community Speed Watch schemes are used to encourage compliance. Some classes of vehicles are fitted with speed limiters and intelligent speed adaptation is being trialled in some places on a voluntary basis.

30 km/h zones and the similar 20 mph zones are forms of speed management used across areas of urban roads in some jurisdictions. The nominal maximum speed limits in these zones are 30 kilometres per hour (19 mph) and 20 miles per hour (32 km/h) respectively. Although these zones do have the nominal speed limit posted, speeds are generally ensured by the use of traffic calming measures, though limits with signs and lines only are increasingly used in the UK.

Traffic collisions in India Overview of traffic collisions in India

Traffic collisions in India are a major source of deaths, injuries and property damage every year. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2016 report states there were 496,762 roads, railways and railway crossing-related traffic collisions in 2015. Of these, road collisions accounted for 464,674 collisions which caused 148,707 traffic-related deaths in India. The three highest total number of fatalities were reported in Uttar Pradesh, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu, and together they accounted for about 33% of total Indian traffic fatalities in 2015. Adjusted for 182.45 million vehicles and its 1.31 billion population, India reported a traffic collision rate of about 0.8 per 1000 vehicles in 2015 compared to 0.9 per 1000 vehicles in 2012, and an 11.35 fatality rate per 100,000 people in 2015. According to Gururaj, the top three highest traffic fatality rates per 100,000 people in 2005 were reported by Tamil Nadu, Goa and Haryana, with a male:female fatality ratio of about 5:1. The reported total fatality, rates per 100,000 people and the regional variation of traffic collisions per 100,000 people varies by source. For example, Rahul Goel in 2018 reports an India-wide average fatality rate of 11.6 per 100,000 people and Goa to be the state with the highest fatality rate.

Vision Zero is a program created by New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio in 2014. Its purpose is to eliminate all traffic deaths and serious injuries on New York City streets by 2024. On January 15, 2014, Mayor de Blasio announced the launch of Vision Zero in New York City, based on a similar program of the same name that was implemented in Sweden. The original Swedish theory hypothesizes that pedestrian deaths are not as much "accidents" as they are a failure of street design. Traffic injuries and traffic crashes in New York City under Mayor de Blasio have been increasing from when the Mayor implemented the plan through 2018, though deaths have decreased.

Road safety in Europe Overview of road safety in Europe

Road safety in Europe encompasses transportation safety among road users in Europe, including automobile accidents, pedestrian or cycling accidents, motor-coach accidents, and other incidents occurring within the European Union or within the European region of the World Health Organization. Road traffic safety refers to the methods and measures used to prevent road users from being killed or seriously injured.

Slough experiment British road safety trial, 1955–1957

The Slough experiment was a two-year road safety trial carried out in Slough, Berkshire, England, from 2 April 1955 to 31 March 1957. Different road safety innovations were tested to determine if they would reduce the number of road accidents. Amongst other innovations the experiment trialled the first linked traffic signals in the country, single yellow no-waiting lines, a keep left system for pedestrians and yield signs at junctions. The experiment also saw the first use of 20 mph and 40 mph speed limits in the UK. The experiment cost at least £133,100 and resulted in a 10% reduction in serious injuries and fatalities.


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