jueves, 23 de agosto de 2012

Fatal road accidents can be avoided. Principal elements of the "Vision Zero" (english version)

The “Vision Zero” is a policy for driving safety, which was developed in the 90s of last century in Sweden. The Vision Zero was approved in the Swedish Parliament in 1999 and is based on the definition of basic elements on top of which a conceptual body and measures are built in order to avoid that road traffic produces deaths or heavy disability in the people that use it.

Suecia inicio de la "Visión cero"
The Vision Zero was approved in Sweden in 1999

The principal elements of this driving safety policy are the following

The first element has an ethical character: Life and health are superior values. For the Zero Perspective they are not negotiable and are above any changes that favour mobility; such as speed, accessibility, comfort, efficiency, respect for the environment…all these have to submit to the ethical value of this policy. The loss of a human life is inacceptable.

The second element is based in the global concept of responsibility. Up to now responsibility for the collisions in traffic was principally and uniformly attributed to the users of the public infrastructures. The Vision Zero defends the concept of shared responsibility between the providers of the service, the users, their designers, the authorities of the transport infrastructures, the automotive industry as well as the police. They all are the responsibles for the correct functioning of the system and that the traffic rules are respected. With this policy it is no longer only the users that have the responsibility that the rules are obeyed, it is also the designers, the authorities and the security corps that hold the responsibility for the voluntary and induced compliance of these rules. Also the automobile producers are responsible to comply with certain production parameters which contemplate minimum security standards in defence of life and health. 

The third element is the establishment of a security culture which comprises the whole of society and which contemplates the human factor of the phenomenon. The exclusive responsibility of the user of the public infrastructures disappears and a new focus on two new premises is established: the first of these is the human factor. Human beings commit mistakes. People can misjudge, distract themselves, fall ill,... and so its a logical consequence that we make mistakes, however, the traffic system must not fail. For example, today the system still permits that we reach 140 km/h driving at a minimum distance to another vehicle that circulates in front of us. The system should impede these situations. The second premise is the critical limit, when once exceeded, the survival and the recuperation of a traumatism is no longer possible. We have to respect the biomechanical tolerances of our bodies, which the road system should protect. We know that the transport system combines human beings with heavy and speedy motorized machines which are controlled by people. For this reason the instability is inherent to our transport system itself, as it is based largely on the human factor.

The Vision Zero has to take into account the human factor, as “error” is integrated in the ADN of the transport system. For this reason the design of the transport system has to be laid out in such a way that it avoids heavy injuries or deaths, although a certain level of collisions with light traumatisms might be assumed. The essential objective of this security policy is to avoid the chain of incidents which result in severe collisions which cause deaths and permanent disability. In the transport system people should not subject themselves to kinetic forces which exceed the human tolerance level and which put their health in danger, however, while the technology permits it, prudence and training should guarantee the integrity of the person.

What measures have been adopted in Sweden since the introduction of the Zero Perspective?

Regarding the technology of the vehicles: 
  • Wide support of the Euro-NCAP programme (European New Car Assessment Programme)
  • Use of restraints in all vehicles. Use of retention systems in all vehicles. The intention is to guarantee a generalized application
  • Generalization of the active and passive security systems in the vehicles
  • Generalization of the air-bag technologies
  • Implementation of the automatic break
  • Improvement of the technologies for energetic saving
In the infrastructures: 
  • Encourage the local authorities to establish 30 km/h zones in the high risk areas for the less protected users
  • Increase the number of cameras for detection of excess velocity
  • Change of perspective in the design of the infrastructures and the speed administration with new engineering concepts in which security predominates
In control and monitoring: 
  • Increase of the random breath and drug testing of the drivers (Alcolocks) 
  • Promotion of road safety as a competitive factor between companies for the adjudication of transport contracts
  • Promotion of evaluation systems with procedures for information intake and processing generated in the system
  • Implementation of intelligent traffic systems
  • Establish controls in the web to collect determined atmospheric parameters which generate better information and which facilitate the decision making of the authorities and the drivers
In the service sector and education: 
  • Promote security as a competitive factor in the transport contracts. New social responsibility policies for companies which are generalizing themselves in the professional world: (CSR) Corporate Social Responsibility
  • Tax incentives for road security
  • Promotion in the media and in the training centres of the values in which the Vision Zero is based

Evitar los accidentes mortales es posible.
Avoid fatal accidents on the roads is possible.

There are places, where road safety is taken seriously. In this post I explained what has been achieved in Sweden. In Spain there are still many people who think that traffic accidents are the price we have to pay for modern mobility. Nothing lies further from the truth. The idea that road accidents are inevitable or unforeseeable is proving false. We should be less tolerant to have fatal accident victims. Vision Zero is an ambitious goal, but not impossible to achieve. 

Bibliographical sources consulted: 
WHO (2004) World report on road traffic injury. 

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