Project: Vision Zero

Reference: STP 19/5/9

Last update: 02/09/2009 17:28:36


The objectives of the project are:
1. To provide a thorough review of the Vision Zero policy in Sweden
2. To determine the acceptability of a Vision Zero policy in other European Union countries and by international organisations
3. To identify the circumstances leading to its adoption, the risks associated with such a policy, the costs and benefits for the UK of adopting such a policy and to consult key stakeholders to test the acceptability or otherwise of such a policy
4. To undertake a full risk assessment of the UK adopting a zero road traffic accident fatality and serious injury policy
5. To carry out a backcasting analysis to identify a policy implementation schedule that would result in achieving a Vision Zero target in 30 years.


The UK currently has an excellent record in reducing road traffic accident (RTA) fatalities and serious injuries. However this excellent performance has not produced visibly safer streets and there are still serious concerns that we could do significantly better. In 1997 the Swedish Parliament introduced a "Vision Zero" policy that requires that fatalities and serious injurious are reduced to zero by 2020. This is a significant step change in transport policy at the European level and may soon be followed by Switzerland. These examples will very soon be quoted as international best practice and there may be pressure on the UK to follow suit. This pressure is also likely to come from the European Commission, which is itself developing a more pro-active and interventionist approach to RTA reduction.

This project is intended to inform UK policy makers of the risks, costs, benefits and opportunities associated with this step change in transport policy. The study will investigate the consequences of implementing this step change and examine which steps are needed to achieve a UK Vision Zero within 30 years. The project will involve extensive consultation with key stakeholders in UK, Sweden, European Commission and selected EU Member States. In addition, a backcasting scenario analysis will be undertaken based on the OECD Environmental Sustainable Transport methodology.
This study is relevant to the on-going road safety and casualty reduction activities of DfT. It provides an opportunity to "think out of the box" and fast forward this work 30 years to examine whether or not it would be prudent, effective and desirable to adopt a Vision Zero strategy in the UK. The project's importance lies in its intrinsic policy significance and in the likelihood that Vision Zero might be broadly adopted as best practice across Europe.

Additional information is available at the Vision Zero project website.


University of York
Stockholm Environment Institute-York, Biology Department, University of York, York, YO10 5YW

Contract details

Cost to the Department: £51,107.00

Actual start date: 01 September 2004

Actual completion date: 16 March 2006


Vision Zero: Adopting a Target of Zero for Road Traffic Fatalities and Serious Injuries
Author: John Whitelegg and Gary Haq
Publication date: 30/06/2006
Source: Stockholm Environment Institute
More information:

Summary of results

  1. The Vision Zero research project was organised around four evidence gathering components:
    1. Interviews with key Swedish stakeholders
    2. Interviews with key European road safety stakeholders
    3. Focus groups carried out in fifteen locations in England
    4. An on-line survey of UK stakeholders

    The Swedish interviews included the Minister of Transport who introduced this policy (Ines Uusman) and the architect of the policy (Claes Tingvall). Most interviewees were strongly supportive of the policy but there was dissent and concerns were expressed about its "unachievability" and that a "Vision Zero society" would not be a very desirable kind of society (it would have too many restrictions).

    The European stakeholders were also in the main very supportive though similar concerns about achievability were expressed. Strong support came from campaigning groups (e.g. European Transport Safety Council) and the World Health Organisation (WHO). Support also came from independent experts but "nested" in criticisms about speed control and urban sprawl/car dependent life styles.

    The UK focus groups covering over 200 participants were very supportive of Vision Zero. The locations were selected to encompass broad geographical categories from central London to "deep rural". Even when doubts about achievability were expressed the overwhelming view put by participants was that the emphasis on zero deaths and injuries was right and that a re-invigorated effort was needed to move more strongly in the direction of reduction in deaths and injuries.

    The UK stakeholder on-line questionnaire was aimed at professionals in government, transport, road safety, motoring, the police and politicians. Eighty-five responses were received and the majority of opinion on Vision Zero was negative. Respondents expressed the view that Vision Zero was not helpful and that it should not be adopted in the UK. Seventy-six per cent of respondents thought that the current UK approach was "effective at reducing deaths and serious injuries". However, the on-line questionnaire results should be interpreted with caution. It was an open, widely circulated questionnaire and the results may not be a representative sample of stakeholders. More work needs to be done to sample opinion amongst this important group of people.

    The Vision Zero research project also investigated the concept from the point of view of costs and benefits and made extensive use of published information on the cost-effectiveness of road safety interventions. The Swedish policy is explicitly based on the idea that road safety is not a matter of economics but a matter of ethics and human values (non-monetary). Nevertheless specific interventions are associated with varying costs and this variation is of value in prioritising policies to achieve Vision Zero objectives. Vision Zero, if adopted in the UK, brings with it a potential 10-year stream of benefits that can be valued at £111 billion. These benefits are also available through the exploitation of road safety policies that need not necessarily be branded as "Vision Zero". The key public policy issue is the systematic nature of the interventions and the determination to reduce deaths and serious injuries to zero.

    These benefits are larger than the costs associated with the interventions, pointing towards some very significant value for money and "spend to save" investment opportunities. The absence of a "Vision Zero" policy does not, however, imply the absence of some level of benefits from other road safety policies. From a public expenditure and public policy point of view, we do not yet know the difference between the potential benefits attributable to Vision Zero and those attributable to a "Business as Usual" approach. This requires further research.

    Implementing Vision Zero in the UK is then considered and the backcasting approach is used to make explicit the steps and the timetabling of what would have to be done. This approach adopts the methodology pioneered by Robinson in the 1990s. A policy implementation scenario involving a Parliamentary decision to adopt Vision Zero in 2010, audit and review in 2020 and specific policy interventions required by government are described.

    The key policy interventions that have been identified by the Stockholm Environment Institute are as follows: 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.

    The report concludes with a risk assessment and discussion.