University of York researchers call for ‘zero tolerance’ on road deaths
Posted on 7 June 2006
Academics at the University of York are calling on the Government to adopt a bold new strategy to reduce deaths and serious injuries on British roads to zero.
This is the conclusion of a detailed investigation of the Swedish
"Vision Zero" road safety policy, carried out on behalf of the UK
Department of Transport, by the Stockholm Environment Institute, based
at the University.
The researchers suggest a range of measures to cut road deaths and
injuries including a 20mph urban speed limit, tougher sentencing of
dangerous drivers and a new accident investigation unit independent of
Vision Zero was adopted by the Swedish Parliament in 1997 and has taken road safety in a new direction by emphasising that:
road safety is an ethical issue and deaths and serious injuries are not acceptable
- society does not expect people to die or be seriously injured while
flying or while working and it should be the same with using roads
- it is possible to design the road environment and vehicles to make
sure that any ‘mistakes’ that are made do not result in death
Sweden is the only country in the world to move in this direction, though others are considering adopting the Swedish approach.
The Stockholm Environment Institute's report was based on detailed
evidence gathering which included interviews with key policy makers and
officials in Sweden, interviews with European stakeholders, focus
groups with over 200 people in 15 locations in England and an on-line
survey of UK road safety professionals.
The report concludes that:
Vision Zero has had a significant impact on re-invigorating efforts
to eliminate deaths and serious injuries on the roads in Sweden
- Vision Zero is generally welcomed by citizens in the UK who see it as a goal which road safety policy should aim to achieve
- Policy makers and professionals in the UK are less enthusiastic about Vision Zero
- Vision Zero has the potential to produce in the UK cumulative benefits of approximately £100 billion over a 10-year period.
- Vision Zero has the potential to deliver on a large number of
policy objectives including reducing air pollution, greenhouse gases,
road traffic danger and improving the quality of life and
sustainability of our communities.
- Respondents to the on-line survey identified some potential
problems including the lack of realism in the Vision Zero concept and
the unacceptability of large scale barrier segregation on highways
Our report looks in detail
at the radical new direction in road safety set by Swedish politicians
and professionals, and concludes that it has a lot to offer Britain
Professor John Whitelegg
Professor John Whitelegg, of the Stockholm Environment Institute at
York, said: "Swedish road safety policy is based on the maxim that the
only acceptable level of death on the roads is zero. Our report looks
in detail at the radical new direction in road safety set by Swedish
politicians and professionals, and concludes that it has a lot to offer
"Setting a target of zero has the potential to galvanise action on
every front and in every profession and simply transfers everyday
practice in aviation to the road environment. Our research shows that
the public are ready to move in this direction and want decision makers
and policy makers to be much bolder in eliminating death and serious
injury from the road environment"
The report recommends five key policy areas to secure improved performance in road safety:
Speed control (20mph in all urban areas)
- Accident investigation agency modelled on the Swedish experience and independent of the police
- Law reform to deal with citizen concern about severe outcomes being dealt with ‘leniently’
- Road traffic reduction
- Urban design to lock in danger reduction for vulnerable users
Notes to editors:
- The full report and executive summary can be accessed at
- The Stockholm Environment Institute
is an independent, international research institute specialising in
sustainable development and environment issues. It works at local,
national, regional and global policy levels. The Institute has its
headquarters in Stockholm with a network structure of permanent and
associated staff worldwide and centres in Boston (USA), Tallinn
(Estonia) and Bangkok (Thailand) with the York centre being part of the
University of York.
- The report was produced by the Stockholm
University of York under a contract with the Department for Transport
as part of the "New Horizons" programme. Any views expressed in this
report are not necessarily those of the Department for Transport.
- Vision Zero or close derivatives of Vision Zero are under active
consideration for adoption as national road safety policies in Finland,
Switzerland, Norway and Austria.