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Policy Statement 552 - Vision Zero


Approved by the Transportation Policy Committee on March 16, 2017
Approved by the Public Policy Committee on June 5, 2017
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 29, 2017


The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports the mission of Vision Zero to reduce traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries to zero. Vision Zero, is based on the tenets that traffic fatalities can be prevented, are unacceptable, and even one traffic-related death is too many.

ASCE believes that the following principles are important towards eliminating traffic-related fatalities:

  • Safety, health, and welfare of the public are the highest priority in engineering design. Transportation systems should be safe for all road users, for all modes of transportation, in all communities, and for people of all ages, incomes, and abilities.
  • Transportation systems should be designed to take into account human factors.
  • Transportation systems should be designed to protect human life and be based on target speeds appropriate for the context and type of facility.
  • Traffic laws, such as, but not limited to, impaired driving, seat belt usage, speeding, and distracted driving, should be enforced.
  • Local, county, and state departments of transportation should update their manuals and design guides to reflect the latest safety best practices.


Motor vehicle crashes were the 10th leading cause of death in the world in 2015, killing 1.3 million people.   In the U.S. traffic fatalities have recently been on the rise. In 2015, 35,092 people died in traffic-related crashes, a 7.2% increase from 2014.  Vulnerable road users made up 18% of fatalities in 2015, with 818 bicyclists and 5,376 pedestrians dying. This represented a 12.2% and a 9.5% increase respectively.

Over the last few decades there has been increased emphasis on reducing traffic-related crashes through programs and initiatives such as bans on the use of hand held mobile devices, driving under the influence, and enforcement seat belt use laws. However, through the appropriate use of engineering design standards and guidance more can be done to provide reasonable protection for roadway users.  


Vision Zero recognizes the importance of roadway design in reducing traffic-related fatalities and serious injuries. Part of the first canon of the ASCE Code of ethics is "Engineers shall hold paramount the safety, health and welfare of the public." 

Vision Zero was conceived in Sweden in 1994 and was incorporated into law three years later. The nations of Norway and the Netherlands have adopted Vision Zero as policy, as have a number of British, Canadian and American cities (including Austin, Chicago, Los Angeles, New York City, San Francisco, Seattle and Washington, DC).

Vision Zero is based on the premise that traffic deaths and injuries can be prevented; therefore, none are acceptable. It calls for safety to be the primary consideration in transportation decision-making. Vision Zero is founded on four principles:

  • Ethics: Human life and health are paramount and take priority over mobility and other objectives of the road traffic system;
  • Responsibility: providers and regulators of the road traffic system share responsibility with users;
  • Safety: road traffic systems should take account of human fallibility and minimize both the opportunities for errors and the harm done when they occur; and
  • Mechanisms for change: providers and regulators must do their utmost to guarantee the safety of all citizens; they must cooperate with road users; and all three must be ready to change to achieve safety.

ASCE Policy Statement 552
First Approved 2017