Safe System / Vision Zero approach

The flaws in the traditional approach

The traditional approach to pedestrian safety is to accept that roads are dangerous places or very dangerous places for pedestrians. This danger is dealt with by
  • 'training' pedestrians i.e. instructing them on how to behave when their route and motorists' routes cross. This crossing of routes is termed "pedestrians crossing the road" rather than "motor vehicles crossing the pedestrians' paths".
  • restricting pedestrian movement to those who are able to cope with the high level of ability needed to negotiate dangerous roads e.g. only pedestrians who can move quickly and are good at judging vehicle speeds

This has a number of undesireable consequences.
  • Those with limited capability are unable to walk unaccompanied e.g. children and people with disabilities
  • Social exclusion
  • Obesity and other health problems from inactivity.

The Safe System (Vision Zero) approach to road safety

The Safe System approach to road safety is based on the principle that road deaths and serious are not "freak accidents" that are inevitable, but are predictable and preventable. It accepts that it is normal for people to have lapses of concentration and make misjudgements, and so do not always act as intended or expected, and that the road system needs to be designed for people 'making mistakes'.

This approach is called "Sustainable Safety" in the Netherlands, and "Vision Zero" in Sweden. It has been credited with the improvements in road safety in those countries and elsewhere.

Vision Zero UK

A group to campaign for Vision Zero to be adopted in the UK was launched on 19 Jan 2016 at a conference in Camden Town Hall in London.

Further reading

WHO (2004) World report on road traffic injury prevention - or download from here.

TOWARDS ZERO: Ambitious Road Safety Targets and the Safe System Approach (2008) OECD and the International Transport Forum - or download from here.

Conference Declaration at PACTS (Parliamentary Advisory Council for Transport Safety) Conference: Aiming for Zero: The Challenges for Road Safety (2012) - or download from here.