Vision Zero is a Swedish policy innovation. It received strong political support at an early stage of its development and became widely established as a result of cooperation between the various players in the road safety sector.
The basis for Vision Zero was established by a group of road safety experts at the authority that was known at the time as Vägverket (the Swedish Road Administration) under the leadership of the Director of Road Safety Claes Tingvall. (Vägverket is now part of Trafikverket – the Swedish Transport Administration).
When the vision was presented for the first time publicly in 1995, many people were sceptical. However, the more people began to consider and adopt the ideas behind Vision Zero, the more support it attracted.
- A growing number of people began to accept that zero deaths in traffic is the only conceivable vision.
In conjunction with the annual Swedish transport research days at the beginning of January 1995, the relatively newly appointed Minister of Communications at the time, Ines Uusmann, declared that the Ministry of Communications intended to focus its work on the environment, new technology and road safety. 1996 was later designated Road Safety Year.
A broad founding of ideas
A working committee was established with representatives from various ministries and with Vägverket. A memorandum was drawn up in which a number of inquiries were identified. In autumn 1995, Vägverket was commissioned to conduct a number of inquiries on various aspects of road safety, in which the government considered it necessary to acquire more knowledge. In the work on the inquiries, Vägverket engaged the services of its partners in the Group for National Cooperation (GNS) with members such as the Police, the Swedish Association of Local Authorities and Regions (Sveriges Kommuner och Landsting) and NTF (National Society for Road Safety).
Two well-attended seminars on road safety were held during the course of the year under the management of the Communications Minister. During the process of producing basic input for the inquiries, a variety of stakeholders and other interested parties took part, which led to a broad-based founding of the content and a stable base for the continued work on road safety in Sweden.
The inquiries conducted during Road Safety Year later served as the basis for Ministry Memorandum "På väg mot det trafiksäkra samhället" (En Route to the Traffic-Safe Society) (Ds 1997:13). In this Memorandum, Vision Zero was described for the first time in political terms. This was followed by a referral for consideration and subsequently by the ideas in the Ministry Memorandum being developed into the Government Bill entitled "Nollvisionen och det trafiksäkra samhället" (Vision Zero and the Traffic-Safe Society) (1996/97:137).
- In autumn 1997, the Swedish Parliament made a historic decision. With a large majority, Parliament determined that Vision Zero should form the basis for the work carried out in Sweden on road safety.
Political agreement on Vision Zero
The strong political will was of decisive importance in Vision Zero becoming a national long term goal for work on road safety, and thereafter an international example. The Minister of Communication, Ines Uusmann, was keenly sensitive to all new ideas and had the will power to take action. Furthermore, the support from road safety experts, researchers, the media and all political parties was also strong.
- Vision Zero never became party policy, but instead a common expression of political direction for the whole society.
In 2004, the Swedish government reported to the Swedish parliament about the development of the road safety work since the introduction of Vision Zero. The analysis showed that Vision Zero had have impact on the operational road safety work but it still needed more effective interventions in order to reach the intermediate target for 2007. The parliament confirmed the decision from 1997 to adopted Vision Zero as a long term for road safety.
In 2005, the Swedish government initiated several reforms within the transport sector which eventually 2009-2010 led to two new governmental agency namely the Swedish Transport Administration and the Swedish Transport Agency. Initially, it was unclear which organization who had the government task to lead the work towards Vision Zero but in 2016 the government decided to renewed their commitments for Vision Zero and the Swedish Transport Administration was commissioned to lead the efforts.