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The path to Vision Zero in transportation

January 17, 2024
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Implementing Vision Zero in traffic

Vision Zero is a road safety concept that was originally developed by the Swedish Road Traffic Administration in the mid-1990s, based on principles from occupational safety. The aim of Vision Zero is to reduce the number of fatalities and serious injuries on the roads to a minimum, ultimately to zero. This approach recognizes that people can make mistakes and that the traffic system should tolerate and forgive these mistakes in order to prevent serious accident consequences.

In Germany, Vision Zero was adopted by the German Road Safety Council in 2007 as the basis for road safety work. Since then, it has become an integral part of traffic policy, with the aim of creating a safe traffic system that no longer results in fatalities or serious injuries. Vision Zero encompasses measures in various areas such as people and society, vehicles, road construction and legislation, and calls for the adaptation of regulations, laws and ordinances in order to increase safety for all road users. It builds on the principles of Vision Zero and calls for global cooperation to achieve the road safety goals.

Stockholm Conference on Vision Zero

The Stockholm Declaration on Road Safety by 2030 was adopted at the 3rd Global Ministerial Conference on Road Safety in Stockholm in February 2020. Safe system approach: Both Vision Zero and the Stockholm Declaration promote a safe system approach that emphasizes the need for a holistic and integrated approach to road safety that takes into account the interaction between road users, vehicles and the road environment.

  • Safe infrastructure: Develop and maintain roads with safety features, such as separate bicycle lanes and crosswalks.
  • Safe vehicles: Encourage the use of vehicles with advanced safety technologies and promote regular maintenance and safety inspections.
  • Safe users: Introduce education programs to increase road users’ awareness of responsible behaviour and the risks associated with traffic.
  • Effective legislation: Enforce and update traffic laws, including strict penalties for violators, to deter unsafe practices.
  • Data-based decision making: Use data to identify risk areas and prioritize interventions based on evidence of safety improvements.
  • Emergency response: Strengthen emergency services and response systems to minimize the impact of accidents.
  • Public Participation: Encourage community involvement and public education campaigns to gain support for road safety initiatives.
  • Multi-sector collaboration: Encourage collaboration between government agencies, NGOs and the private sector to jointly address road safety challenges.
  • Continuous evaluation: Regularly evaluate the effectiveness of implemented measures and adapt strategies to evolving road safety needs.
  • Innovation and technology: Use emerging technologies to improve traffic management, communication and general safety measures.

Comprehensive implementation of these steps can significantly contribute to achieving the Vision Zero goal and improving road safety at the city and national levels.

Figures on Vision Zero in Berlin

  • Berlin’s Mobility Law and Vision Zero: The Mobility Law in Berlin embeds the Vision Zero objective, aiming to eliminate all traffic-related deaths and serious injuries. The city’s overarching traffic safety program, “Berlin Sicher Mobil,” which began in 2020, is a comprehensive strategy to further reduce traffic accidents that result in harm to people .
  • Traffic Fatalities in 2023: In 2023, the number of traffic fatalities in Berlin was relatively low, similar to the previous year. By mid-December 2023, 33 people had lost their lives in traffic accidents. This number was slightly lower than the 34 fatalities in the previous year and significantly lower than the 40 fatalities in 2021 and 50 in the year before that. The decline in fatalities is notable compared to earlier years when the numbers were much higher.
  • Details on Traffic Victims: In 2023, the breakdown of traffic fatalities in Berlin included 12 cyclists, 11 pedestrians, 5 motorcyclists or scooter riders, 4 car drivers, and 1 wheelchair user. Among the victims, 24 were men, and 9 were women. The total number of traffic accidents registered in Berlin was 99,088, with about 90% involving only property damage and no injuries. The total number of people lightly injured was 10,732, while 1,583 were severely injured, a slight decrease of around 4% compared to 2022 .
  • Challenges Ahead: Despite these improvements, Berlin still faces challenges in achieving the Vision Zero goal of completely safe streets. Activists continue to call for more effective measures to enhance road safety and protect vulnerable road users

To further implement Vision Zero, around 35 associations, independent organizations and administrations in Berlin are involved in the Berlin Charter for Road Safety. These stakeholders are implementing numerous measures and innovative individual approaches to achieve the ambitious goals of Vision Zero.

What is the significance of Vision Zero for Germany?

The significance of Vision Zero for Germany is considerable. Vision Zero, originally a concept to prevent accidents at work, has developed into a fundamental strategy in the field of road safety in Germany. The aim is to have no fatalities or serious injuries on the roads by creating a safe traffic system. This requires an adaptation of regulations, laws and ordinances to ensure the safety of all road users.

In Germany, Vision Zero was adopted by the German Road Safety Council (DVR) in 2007 as the basis for road safety work. With the amendment of the Administrative Regulation on Road Traffic Regulations (VwV-StVO) in 2021, Vision Zero was incorporated into traffic law, underlining the importance of this concept in the German traffic system.

In Germany, many associations, organizations and authorities are committed to implementing Vision Zero. The focus of all measures is on people and their safety. The Vision Zero philosophy – no traffic accidents resulting in death or serious personal injury – is now a central component of German transport policy and influences the design of transport infrastructure, road safety education and technical and organizational measures to increase road safety.

European perspective

While European roads are the safest in the world, with 44 road deaths per one million inhabitants, there is no room for complacency. In 2021, an estimated 19 800 people lost their lives on EU roads. The number of deaths and injuries is a significant source of concern and entails considerable economic costs. This is why the EU has pledged to achieve zero road fatalities by 2050. “Vision Zero” is the EU’s strategy for reaching this reduction over the coming decades. This includes setting out key performance indicators relating to the main road safety challenges to be tackled, namely:

  • Safe infrastructure.
  • Safe vehicles.
  • Safe road use, including speeding, alcohol, distraction, and the use of protective equipment.
  • Fast and effective post-crash care.
The Vision Zero philosophy and the Stockholm Declaration have gained international recognition and influenced road safety policies and initiatives worldwide. Many cities and countries have adopted or adapted these principles to improve their road safety record.

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