Vision Zero is a philosophy of road safety that eventually no one will be killed or seriously injured within the road transport system. This paper describes Vision Zero and its view that safety cannot be traded for mobility. The applicability of Vision Zero to Victoria in the short- and long-term is discussed.

In October 1997, the Road Traffic Safety Bill founded on Vision Zero was passed by a large majority in the Swedish parliament. The Vision Zero is that eventually no one will be killed or seriously injured within the road transport system (Ministry of Transport and Communications, 1997). The Vision is an expression of the ethical imperative that  It can never be ethically acceptable that people are killed or seriously injured when moving within the road transport system.

Vision Zero addresses fatalities and those injuries where the victim does not physically recover within a certain period of time. This means that common, but not long-term disabling injuries, and non-injury accidents are more or less outside the scope of the Vision.

Vision Zero provides a vision of a safe road transport system which can be used to guide the selection of strategies and then the setting of goals and targets. Zero is not a target to be achieved by a certain date. It is a change from an emphasis on current problems and possible ways of reducing these to being guided by what the optimum state of the road transport system should be.

Vision Zero also changes the emphasis in responsibility for road traffic safety. In all current road transport systems, the road user has almost total responsibility for safety. In most countries, there are general rules that the road user should behave in such a way that accidents are avoided. If an accident occurs, at least one road user has, by definition, broken the general rule and the legal system can therefore act.

In contrast, Vision Zero explicitly states that the responsibility is shared by the system designers and the road user:

  1. The designers of the system are always ultimately responsible for the design, operation and use of the road transport system and thereby responsible for the level of safety within the entire system.
  2. Road users are responsible for following the rules for using the road transport system set by the system designers.
  3. If road users fail to obey these rules due to lack of knowledge, acceptance or ability, or if injuries occur, the system designers are required to take necessary further steps to counteract people being killed or seriously injured.”

‘Ethical rules’ have been proposed to guide the system designers. Two of these are:

  1. “Life and health can never be exchanged for other benefits within the society”
  2. “Whenever someone is killed or seriously injured, necessary steps must be taken to avoid a similar event”.