July 12, 2016, Kitchener, Ontario
Posted by: Robert Deutschmann, Personal Injury Lawyer
Vision Zero is a traffic safety initiative begun in Sweden which advocates for zero road traffic fatalities. The movement has become multinational, and is strongly focussed on human safety and health, rather than on traditional design goals which determine spending on roads on a cost/benefit/risk basis. Vision Zero’s goal in one sentence
"No loss of life is acceptable"
It is a multi-pronged approach which is based on the fact that humans make mistakes, and that the road system, and vehicles must be designed to protect us. “In every situation a person could fail - the road system should not”.
Vision Zero is based on four principles:
- Ethics - Human Life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system
- Responsibility – providers and regulators of the road traffic system share responsibility with users
- Safety: road traffic systems should take account of human fallibility and minimize both the opportunities for errors and the harm done when they occur; and
- Mechanisms for change: providers and regulators must do their utmost to guarantee the safety of all citizens; they must cooperate with road users; and all three must be ready to change to achieve safety.
Other principles were added to Vision Zero in order to ensure that motorists would comprehend the full extent of the movement's purpose:
- Traffic deaths and injuries are preventable; therefore, none are acceptable.
- People will make mistakes; the transportation system should be designed so those mistakes aren’t fatal.
- Safety is the primary consideration in transportation decision-making.
- Traffic safety solutions must be addressed holistically.
Sweden has among the world’s safest roads and highways with only 3 deaths per 100,000 drivers which is almost half of Canada’s rate of 5.2/100,000.
In Canada’s largest city, Toronto, 64 people died in traffic crashes in the city. The majority of those deaths were pedestrians. Toronto, where traffic deaths are on the rise, has never had an overall road safety strategy according to the CBC. The Vision Zero website is compelling to be sure. It would be good to consider this approach in our country as well. From their website:
For example, on our road systems it is perfectly legal for a car to travel at the high speed of 100 km/h, a couple of metres behind the vehicle in front in wet weather. All this without knowing if the driver is fit or understands the risks.
Another example is how our bodies are subject to biomechanical tolerance limits and simply not designed to travel at high-speed. We have a very natural fear of heights but lack the ability to judge velocity. However, we still travel at high-speed.
We’re also naturally prone to be distracted and have our attention diverted by music, phone calls, smoking, passengers, insects, or events outside the car. On top of this, we just make silly mistakes. The human factor is always present – 365 days a year. An effective road safety system needs to take human fallibility into account.
By designing the entire transport system to cater for human fallibility, we will learn how to manage kinetic energy in traffic systems and change road and vehicle design – separately and in unison.