Vision Zero: towards safer roads, globally

Vision Zero is a multi-national ethical approach to road safety that is based on the principle that deaths and serious injuries on the roads are neither acceptable nor inevitable. Originating in Sweden in 1997, it is now embraced in cities and countries across the world. Ultimately the aim is to create a road transport system where deaths do not happen.

Posted 10 Nov 2020

The underlying principle of Vision Zero is that ‘it can never be ethically acceptable that people are killed or seriously injured when moving within the road transport system’. To put it even more simply: no loss of life on the roads is acceptable.


How is Vision Zero different?

Historically, a cost-benefit approach has been taken to road safety. This means a monetary value is placed on life and road safety schemes introduced in areas where they would have the biggest impact.

Vision Zero is different because of its core principle that ‘Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within society’. It moves away from a cost-benefit approach and is instead an ethical principle. Traffic ‘crashes’ are not ‘accidents’ because deaths are preventable and unacceptable.

The word ‘Vision’ is key here. Vision Zero sets out the vision which guides the setting of strategies for each locality. Goals and targets are then set to work towards the vision, making it tangible. Many of these will be well-tested interventions but the aim is an overall, joined-up approach.


A change in responsibility

Responsibility for safety in current road transport systems sits with the road user. Most countries have sets of general rules, such as the Highway Code which set expectations about the way a road user should behave. In the event of an accident, it is assumed at least one party has broken the rules and is at fault.

Vision Zero changes this, explicitly stating that responsibility also sits with the system designer. Indeed, the ultimate responsibility is theirs.  This means safety is the overriding priority of transport planners and road system designers – everything else stems from that priority. And when accidents occur, even if they are a result of road transport system users not following the rules, the onus is on planners to make changes to the system so there is no repeat – because similar events are not acceptable.


Vision Zero across the world

Although the underlying principle is the same, the way Vision Zero is implemented across the world varies. Many cities, regions and states in the United States have adopted the principles, with Chicago and New York being the first adopters.

Although the UK has not yet adopted Vision Zero, Transport for London has. The Mayor’s Transport Strategy sets out the goal that, by 2041, all deaths and serious injuries will be eliminated from London’s transport network.

As for Sweden, after adopting the approach in 1997, road deaths halved over the period 2000-2009.


What does it mean in practice

Let’s look at London as an indicative example. The action plan is fivefold and takes into account that no one measure will achieve the goal. It covers Safe speeds, Safe streets, Safe Vehicles, Safe behaviors, and Post-collision response.

London has introduced the new Direct Vision Standard and HGV Permit Scheme, which affects all trucks over 12-tonnes entering or operating in Greater London. This is a key part of Vision Zero. The scheme means all vehicles must meet a minimum safety standard which relates to the amount of vision the driver has from the cab. Non-compliant vehicles will receive a fine.

Vision Zero means a different way of designing new road schemes, with safety – particularly of pedestrians and cyclists – as the primary concern. Vision Zero campaigners say they ask for evidence-based changes e.g. speed limit reductions, detailed crash investigations to determine effective prevention strategies, safety cameras, and changes in road user priorities so that collisions are minimized.


How does technology help reach Vision Zero?

Connected vehicle technology like CameraMatics has a significant impact on the safety of all road users. From cameras giving drivers a complete view around the vehicle and eliminating dangerous blindspots to AI technology guarding against driver distraction and forward collisions, our technology has a big part to play in Vision Zero – for all kinds of vehicles.

We fully support the principles behind Vision Zero.

Vehicles will always need to be on the roads. Our vision is to make them as safe as possible, using our intelligent connected technology.