Vision Zero without road deaths

First published in The Global Road Safety Review 2015 as Reduced to nothing

Fatality on a road The EU aims for zero fatalities in road transport by 2050 – with casualties halved by 2020

*Gülay Malkoc discusses Vision Zero, a philosophy for road safety aimed at eliminating deaths and serious injuries and a key issue for the European Union’s 28 Member States

‘Vision Zero’ is a system designed to be used within the road transport system to reduce deaths and injuries to zero and is based around using a multinational traffic safety approach. The concept of Vision Zero is based on four principles:

  • The first is an ethical stance, that life is not negotiable. Human life and health are crucial and have priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system.
  • The second is one of responsibility and the knowledge that human beings are fallible. This means that providers and regulators of the road traffic system share responsibility with users.
  • The third is a focus on safety, so that any errors must never carry a penalty of death. Road traffic systems should take account of human fallibility and minimise both the opportunities for errors and the harm done when they occur.
  •  The fourth is a focus on cooperation, as human beings have a right to a safe transport system. 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 achieve safety.

To achieve this aim, the EU set new targets for reducing road traffic deaths across the 28 Member States. The intention is to aim for zero fatalities in road transport by 2050. In line with this goal, the EU aims at halving road casualties by 2020.

Positive Improvements

The White Paper in 2011, “Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area-Towards a competitive and resource efficient transport system”, is notable primarily for including a Vision Zero. This complements the “Road Safety Policy Orientations 2011-2020” target of halving road deaths by 2020, a Vision Zero for 2050.

The most recent statistics for the EU countries show that there are positive improvements in road safety. However, looking at information released by the EC in Brussels in March, it is clear that additional efforts need to be made.

From that release, it can be seen that following two years of solid decreases in the number of people killed on Europe’s roads, initial reports for road deaths during 2014 are disappointing. According to the figures, the number of road fatalities in 2014 decreased by around 1% when compared to 2013. This follows on from the 8% decrease seen in 2012 and 2013. The figures reveal that there were a total of 25,700 road deaths in 2014 across all 28 Member States. Whilst this is 5,700 fewer than in 2010, it falls short of the intended target decrease.

Still Work To Do

Gülay MalkocGülay Malkoc, HSE committee chairperson

In 2014, the country-specific statistics show that the number of road deaths still varies greatly across the EU. The average EU fatality rate for 2014 is expected to be 51 road deaths per million inhabitants. Malta, the Netherlands, Sweden and the UK continue to report the lowest road fatality rates, with less than 30 deaths per million. But four countries still report fatality rates above 90 dead per million: Bulgaria, Latvia, Lithuania and Romania.

On the positive side however, the figures do show that the total number of EU road deaths has decreased by 18.2% since 2010. Some European countries report a better than average road safety improvement over the years. This is the case in Greece, Portugal and Spain. In addition, Denmark, Croatia, Malta, Cyprus, Romania, Italy, Slovenia and the Czech Republic report a reduction of road deaths above the EU average for 2010-2014. It is clear that there is still much to be done to reach the aim of Vision Zero. In this respect, the EU Commissioner for Transport the coming years, to reach the intended EU target of halving the number of road deaths by 2020. Let’s work together to make sure more people come home safely at the end of their journey. This is one of my priorities and should be one of the priorities of all governments in all the Member States!”

The Role of Legislation

At the same time, the EC has said it will contribute with legislation and recommendations on issues of common concern, for example on the minimum requirements for technical vehicle inspections and the harmonisation of technical standards. In this respect, the EC is finalising an interim report on EU road safety policy taking stock and setting the agenda for the next five years. The report is being published in 2015.

Continued work will be made on the analysis of serious road traffic injuries. The Commission intends to set shortly a new target for the reduction of serious road injuries and define a strategy to meet this target. There will be a review of rules on training and qualifications of professional drivers and a Commission proposal is expected to be adopted by the end of 2016. There will also be a review of the EU framework on infrastructure safety management drivers – and a Commission proposal is similarly expected to be adopted by the end of 2016.

Furthermore, in the EU several NGOs and civil societies are highly active and taking part in a dialogue with EU institutions to support this issue.

Holistic Approach

Since lowering the number of road user casualties is the key for improving the overall performance of the transport system (and to meet needs and expectations), a coherent holistic and integrated approach is needed.

To achieve this, road safety policies at local, national, European or international level should integrate relevant objectives of other public policies. There should also be effective enforcement of road traffic rules and education campaigns, using safety and security-related ITS systems and also infrastructure development and road maintenance.

However this last is an issue as there has been a decline in public resources in most EU countries. Maintenance is a particular problem as the surface of the road, where the main interaction between the vehicle and the road occurs, must be of a high quality with sufficient skid-resistance and without cracks or potholes, so as to deliver the minimum performance level important for road safety.

* Gülay Malkoc is HSE committee chairperson, European Asphalt Pavement Association (EAPA) and also technical director, Turkish Asphalt Contractors Association (ASMUD) and an acknowledged European expert on transportation issues.