Swedish Road Safety

I’ve finally found something useful to read at Consumer Reports! I shouldn’t be so cruel, but until they stop, well, I won’t either.

Safety has been a hallmark of both Swedish brands since ‘day dot’ so it’s little wonder that this common thread is borne out of a national philosophy.

This article comes from the Consumer Reports weblog and it’s quite amazing the lengths they go to in order to make the roads a safer and more fluent part of society.

Here in Australia we have a number of places around the country that are noted as “black spots” – where there have been a number of fatal road accidents. These are usually earmarked for priority funding to make them safer. It’s all relative, though, and in the end, a lot of it is political. We have one spot here in Tasmania that’s seen a number of fatalities but there’s not many votes along that stretch of road, so it’s yet to be properly addressed.

It seems in Sweden, the same philosophy that developed Saabs as one of the world’s safest cars is also applied to the roads they drive on.

The entire article is worth your perusal, but here’s some snippets:

Starting 10 years ago, Sweden embarked on a program called Vision Zero, which combined conventional approaches such as speeding and drunk-driving crackdowns.

The idea of Vision Zero is not zero crashes, but rather zero fatalities and serious injuries.

In other words, we can’t stop accidents from happening, but maybe there’s a way to minimise the damage that occurs when the inevitable happens. Some measures taken to do it:

* Separate pedestrians from the roadway.

* The worst kind of highway is straight, wide and flat, with no barriers.

* Slow the traffic in urban and suburban areas. Use traffic-calming techniques, such as narrow, gently curving roads separated by median strips.

* Rate roadways on a four-star scale for the inherent safety of their design

And most interestingly, for me:

* Get rid of traffic lights wherever possible. “Traffic-light intersections are a safety catastrophe,” says Johansson. Wherever possible, roundabout intersections are to be used.

We use roundabouts quite a lot here in Australia and I was quite amazed by the lack of them when I visited Canada a few years ago. I understand there’s relatively few of them in the US as well.

There’s also some very good points there on the ethics of road safety. A lot of it is stuff you’d probably think anyway, subconsciously, but it’s interesting to see it put down on (virtual) paper. I guess this is the extra step that traffic engineers have to take.

Saabs rate as good as the best cars on the market when it comes to safety. They rate better than most. It’s a gift the Swedes have given us that these great little cars can be so safe and so much fun all at the same time.

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4 Comments

  1. Interesting post. Actually, all of those measures listed in the post are being used in varying amounts in Salt Lake valley where I live, so they are hardly Swedish innovations. And Salt Lake isn’t any more innovative than other places I’ve been in the U.S. It’s Transportation Engineering 101 type stuff.

  2. I had never seen a roundabout in my life until a business trip to New England (Boston area). We just don’t have them anywhere in California that I know of. Most of California is relatively newly-developed and we’re mostly on the “grid system”. Lots of interesections and straight roads w/o medians. I guess the worst safety scenario…

    There was an article at Autobloggreen a couple of days ago about the efficiency advantage of roundabouts:
    http://kww.autobloggreen.com/2007/04/24/pablo-paster-calculates-the-efficiency-gains-of-roundabouts-vs/

  3. I’m with you on roundabouts. You will find them in Massachusetts. They call them rotaries. Here in suburban Detroit, I spend at least five minutes stopped or rolling slowly(each way) every day at an intersection that would be perfect for a roundabout. They frightened me the first time I drove in the UK. During the first day, I understood how brilliant they are.

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