If you drive around Sweden you’ll see variations of the same road markings, road signs, and traffic signals that are used everywhere else in the developed world. But Sweden is a remarkably safer place for road users than the rest of the world. In fact, in 2013 it was among the safest countries in road traffic deaths per 100,000 people.
So, how did the Swedes do it? Are they better drivers? Are the traffic laws in Sweden stricter than other countries? Are their roads just better designed? It turns out that the recipe for traffic safety is a combination of all of these things, delivered by an innovative program called Vision Zero.
Vision Zero has a laudable goal—reducing all road accident–related deaths to zero. It aims to achieve this by designing road systems that prioritize safety above all other factors, while still recognizing the importance of keeping traffic moving. In other words, a road system that is designed first and foremost with safety in mind.
At its core, Vision Zero is about culture change. Policymakers, traffic system designers, and citizens have a shared belief that the safety of pedestrians and drivers is more valuable than the need to move from place to place as quickly as possible. This culture of safety drives individual behavior, which can result in a more desirable outcome for the traffic system.
In addition, the road system itself is designed to be safer. Traffic designers apply speed limits, ...