In 2022, 63 people died in traffic crashes on Portland streets. Portland is committed to getting that number down to zero.
Vision Zero represents the city's goal to eliminate traffic deaths and serious injuries. The term originated in Sweden in 1997 and made landfall in the U.S. in New York City in 2014. Portland followed suit, publishing the first Vision Zero Action Plan in 2016.
Vision Zero is not a quick fix. Rather, it’s a fundamental shift in the way we approach traffic safety.
Safe System principles
In the past, a lot of traffic safety work focused on the individual behavior of road users. In contrast, Vision Zero’s Safe System approach considers how the people who design, build, and manage the transportation network can prioritize the lives and health of people using the system.
Six principles underpin this approach:
- Death and serious injuries are unacceptable – we must reject the notion that traffic violence is the inevitable price of mobility.
- People make mistakes – we should account for this when we design our transportation system.
- Human bodies are fragile – our soft tissue and bones are not able to withstand crash forces.
- Responsibility is shared – among those who design, build, and manage streets and vehicles, those who use streets and vehicles, and those who provide post-crash care.
- Safety is proactive – the reason we make systemic changes is to prevent serious crashes.
- Redundancy is crucial – if one layer of protection fails, another will prevent serious injury.
The Safe System approach anticipates human mistakes. The idea is to keep the risk of mistakes low, so when a mistake leads to a crash, the impact on the human body doesn't cause serious injury or death.
Safe System elements
Four elements are central to the Safe System approach:
- Safe speeds are core to a Safe System approach and are the first layer of protection. People who are hit at slower speeds face less injury, whereas higher speeds are more deadly.
- Safe streets consider all people who use the streets and are designed to be forgiving of mistakes and human frailty.
- Safe vehicles are designed and maintained to prevent crashes and protect all road users – including those outside of the vehicles.
- Safe people using the road are alert, unimpaired, and comply with road rules. They take steps to improve their safety and the safety of others.
Together these elements act as layers of redundancy to prevent crashes and ensure a safe transportation system.
How can you help us reach Vision Zero?
There are simple actions you can take (today!) to help us realize Vision Zero: