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Vision Zero – a vision of the future

4 July 2017

Over 1,000,000 road deaths a year would not happen if all countries worldwide performed as well as Sweden. As a world-leader in road safety, Sweden has recommitted to their Vision Zero strategy and strive to do even better. So must we all.

This was the uncompromising message that iRAP CEO Rob McInerney delivered to more than 180 road safety practitioners at the 20th anniversary conference of Vision Zero in Stockholm in Sweden. Since the Swedish Government backed Vision Zero in 1997, the ethics-based road safety system has made the country the world leader in road safety. The approach is being adopted worldwide with many cities such as Chicago, Philadelphia, London and Mexico now launching Vision Zero Strategies.

Road deaths are just the tip of a shocking ‘iceberg’ of life-shattering traumas that costs US$2trillion each year, Rob told delegates. Under a headline figure of 3,500 deaths a year, there are multiple layers of injury from fractures up to brain damage and paralysis. Tragically, many of these victims are young people with their lives ahead of them.

Vision Zero uses a holistic multi-disciplinary approach to road safety in which no loss of life is acceptable. It brings together traffic planners, police officers, vehicle designers, policy makers and public health professionals to consider all the factors that contribute to safe mobility.

Urban sustainability

This year’s conference had a strong focus on road safety’s role in creating liveable, sustainable urban spaces. The Undersecretary of Planning in the Secretariat of Mobility of Mexico City, Laura Ballesteros, described how 110 new safer crosswalks and intersections had been built (with a further 240 planned) as part of the city’s commitment to reduce road deaths by 50% by 2021.

The urban sustainability work of WRI/EMBARQ (a partner of World Bank/iRAP in the Bloomberg Philanthropies cities initiative) was shared by Claudia Adriazola. The insights into what people want from cities and the snapshots of different cities across the world in terms of mode share, fatality types, urban design and speed were eye-opening. Road safety as a true enabler of liveable cities was highlighted.

The social justice and inequality issues posed by road traffic crashes were highlighted starkly by the Director of US Vision Zero Network, Leah Shahum. She explained that high income communities were nearly twice as likely to have sidewalks as low income communities.

The reality of the Vision Zero journey was shared by the Swedish experts who helped make it happen including Minister Johannson, Maria Kraft, Matts Ake-Belin, Peter Larsson, Anders Lie, Sixten Nolen and Claes Tingvall. Culture change is not easy but the rewards are great.

Rob McInerney said: ‘This was a great conference. Sweden has just recommitted to Vision Zero and to doing more. If the world leader is doing more then we must all do more. 3 star or better roads are just the start of the solution as we ultimately strive for Vision Zero and 5 star roads.

‘If we were all as good as Sweden there’d be 1,0009,778 fewer deaths this year and we could unlock more than US$1.6 trillion in crash costs every year. If we scale up to address the road safety crises as a global community we can aim for and achieve Vision Zero.'

View all the Conference presentations here.

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