If a car almost hits a pedestrian when the car is turning right on a red, whose fault is it? According to Matts-Åke Belin, Sweden’s traffic safety strategist, the blame is on whoever designed the intersection.
“Why should we put the whole responsibility on the individual road user, when we know they will talk on their phones, they will do lots of things that we might not be happy about?” Belin told CityLab in an interview. “So let’s try to build a more human-friendly system instead.”
Belin is one of the creators of Vision Zero, a Swedish policy instigated in 1997 that has the aim of eliminating road deaths. But unlike almost every other scheme to make roads safer, Vision doesn’t try to blame the victim or the perpetrator. Instead, it tries to design the system itself to be safer. And it’s working. Since its beginning, Vision Zero has more than halved road deaths, to below three fatalities per 100,000. Compare that to the U.S., where the figure is 11.6 per 100,000.