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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. 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.
Vision Zero was introduced in 1995. 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.
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." 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.
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 (19 mph). 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. Speeds over 100 km/h (62 mph) 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 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.
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. It spread to the US in 2010.
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.
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.
From that, the Parachute Vision Zero Network was formed, comprising more than 250 road safety advocates and practitioners, law enforcement, government and municipalities. 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.
The second Parachute Vision Zero Summit was held in October 2017, attended by network members and politicians, including Ontario Transportation Minister Steven Del Duca.
Another organization, Vision Zero Canada (visionzero.ca), launched their national campaign in December 2015.
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. 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.
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. All new roads are built to this standard and older roads are modified.. 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.
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'. 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 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". 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.
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.
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. 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.
|Country||1980 killed||2013 killed||2013/1980 percent||2013 killed per million population||2013 killed per 100 billion vehicle-kilometers|
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." 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.
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.
Traffic volume in Sweden increased steadily over the same period.
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.
Table 1. Possible long term maximum travel speeds related to the infrastructure, given best practice in vehicle design and 100% restraint use...
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