Home to the World’s Safest Roads

How much better for the health of drivers, bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians would it be if all the roads around the world were safer? If we are to even move in that direction, the global community would do well to pay attention to Sweden.

Why Sweden? Sweden is home, on average, to the world’s safest roads. Even with treacherous winter conditions in much of the country, Sweden’s policies on road safety have resulted in measurable change in the effort to make the country’s roads safer. In fact, driving in Sweden involves just over one-quarter the risk of driving in the United States.

Beginning in October 1997, through the intelligent application of road safety measures on a nationwide level, Sweden launched its Vision Zero program. Sweden’s roads are built with safety as the primary concern, rather than convenience or speed. Other initiatives include lower urban speed limits, pedestrian zones, barriers between car and bike lanes, median barriers, and a system of road lane marking called “2+1”.

Sweden’s 2+1 roadways use a width that might typically be used for two wide lanes of traffic – one in each direction. But by narrowing the lane width, room is made for a center lane. Both directions of traffic take turns using the center lane for overtaking. The center lane is often combined with a wire rope median to further reduce the risk of head-on crashes.

Beyond the roads themselves, Sweden has made its roads safer for pedestrians, making more than 12,000 improvements to intersections across the country, including pedestrian crosswalks, pedestrian bridges, speed bumps, warning lights, and better lighting. Policing in Sweden is also very strict, resulting in very few drunk drivers on the roads.

By focusing on engineering efforts, infrastructure changes, and a robust communications campaign, Sweden is moving closer towards its goal of zero traffic deaths.