Every year in America, 37,000 people die in road traffic accidents. An additional 2.3 million people are injured. Educating drivers to observe the highway code and the speed limits simply hasn’t been enough to prevent the unnecessary deaths that occur every year. Maybe it’s time to adopt new ways to try and cut down the accidents that happen every single day. It is worth looking at Sweden, who have the safest roads in Europe – their strategies have helped to save lives.
Have you ever noticed how Sweden seems to be much more organized in terms of infrastructure compared with many countries? In 1997, Sweden introduced Vision Zero, a new way of looking at road safety, in an attempt to reduce accidents on the road. It is based around the theory that people will make mistakes, so the roads are designed to take this into account. The roads were redesigned to try and lessen severe impacts. For instance, they use barriers made out of flexible wire rope, and have installed safer road beds.
The 2 + 1 layout
Most roads have now been configured into the 2+1 layout. This means there are two lanes on one side of the road, and one on the other – separated by the wire rope barriers. Every now and then the lanes swap, so that vehicles can overtake in both directions. Ever since these road systems were put into place in Sweden, there has been a drop in deaths caused by road traffic accidents of a staggering 50%.
Considering the speed limits
Vision Zero is still ongoing, and last year there were 254 people that died in accidents in Sweden. The government has pledged to get this figure down to 220 by the year 2020. The head of the Swedish Transport Administration, Maria Krafft has said that it is important to recognize that we can’t eliminate human error, so instead, the building of the roads needs to counteract the consequences. For instance on a faster road, if there is an intersection, something needs to be put before it, such as a rotary, in order to slow the vehicles down. This way if there is an accident, there are less likely to be fatalities.
Sweden’s approach to reducing road traffic accidents isn’t rocket science, it’s about understanding that people make mistakes. Maybe adopting this approach could help save lives in America too.