No Roads as Safe as Sweden’s

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No Roads as Safe as Sweden's

Sweden’s roads are statistically the safest in Europe. That’s a fact—not a brag. The European Transport Safety Council (ETSC) ranked Sweden at the top in its Road Safety Performance Index, making the Scandinavian country the current standard for road safety. So, what’s the secret? Well, in the late 90s, Sweden rolled out a program called Vision Zero. The concept was groundbreaking: No loss of life is acceptable. Result: No roads as safe as Sweden’s.

They set out to design a traffic system that eliminated fatal accidents. And here’s what’s also surprising in a good way—Vision Zero isn’t rocket science. It’s more about designing roads that take human error into account. Think wider pavements, separate bike lanes, and pedestrian zones in city centers. Plus, a considerable number of roundabouts, because believe it or not, they dramatically cut the number of accidents. The Swedish Transport Administration confirms this in their report, showing that where roundabouts have been installed, accidents have plummeted by a staggering 40% in a matter of months.

No Roads as Safe as Sweden's
It’s been established that Sweden’s roads are very safe compared to the rest of Europe. Photo: Johna Willner/Imagebank/sweden.se

Driving Safe in Sweden: Top Tips

It’s been established that Sweden’s roads are very safe compared to the rest of Europe. However, safe driving still matters. Here are a couple of tips to stay safe on Swedish roads and keep those safety records looking sharp.

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First, avoid the tiny local roads if you can—they tend to be surrounded by forests, which doesn’t sound like a big deal until a moose or a deer jumps out. That leads to the next pointer. Keep an eye out for wildlife! Around 50,000 accidents every year in Sweden involve animals, according to the Swedish Transport Agency. So whether you’re driving in the north, around forests or even just out of town, keep an eye out. And finally, be a stickler about rules.

Swedes are known for their commitment to the rules, and it’s no different when it comes to road safety. Strict adherence to speed limits is the norm, not the exception in Sweden. This isn’t just down to natural law-abiding tendencies, though. The Swedish Transport Administration has put into place an efficient speed camera system that catches those exceeding the speed limit, further encouraging motorists to keep within the designated speeds. After all, nobody wants a speeding ticket.

And it’s not just about speed limits. Overtaking in Sweden isn’t a free-for-all. Swedish drivers only overtake when it’s unquestionably safe to do so – they’re not about playing chicken with oncoming traffic. This nifty habit drastically reduces the risk of head-on collisions—which are typically the most dangerous.

True, all of this means getting to your destination might take a little longer; but in the grand scheme of things, it’s a small price to pay for safer roads, fewer accidents, and altogether more pleasant driving. You’re not just looking out for yourself when you drive like this, you’re contributing to the safety of everyone on the road, from other drivers to vulnerable cyclists and pedestrians.

Unlike some countries where aggressive tailgating is business as usual, drivers in Sweden are educated in the benefits of always maintaining an adequate distance from the car in front of them. A longer stopping distance can dramatically reduce the chance of rear-end collisions. This meticulous attention to detail is perhaps key to Sweden’s success in road safety. The country’s efforts to prioritize safe and responsible driving offer a peaceful and less stressful driving experience, one that other nations could certainly learn from as we all strive for safer roads.

No Roads as Safe as Sweden's
Sweden focuses on education and strict legislation, really pushing that whole “safety first” mentality.

Learning from Sweden: Suggestions for Europe

So, what else can other countries in Europe learn from Sweden? Well, it’s not all about the infrastructure. Sweden has a culture of safety, too. They focus on education and strict legislation, really pushing that whole “safety first” mentality.  According to Sweden’s Minister for Infrastructure, “Traffic safety is a matter of life and death. We have to face the fact that we are not invincible. And that every decision we make – like speeding, not using the seatbelt, sending a text message – has consequences.”

Still, Accidents Can Happen

Of course, let’s keep it real: traffic accidents still can happen, even with the best planning. No system can completely rule out human error. In 2018, there were 251 fatalities on Sweden’s roads, according to the ETSC. While this is the lowest figure in Europe, it shows that accidents still do occur.

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But with Vision Zero, Sweden is leading the way in road safety, showing us that while accidents are a reality of life, limiting them might just be a matter of great vision and a little patience.

No Roads as Safe as Sweden's
Karoline Gore

No Roads as Safe as Sweden’s, written dedicatedly for Daily Scandinavian by Karoline Gore. Karoline is a freelance writer from Stoke on Trent in the UK who left the corporate grind when she started a family and has never looked back. She enjoys contributing to a range of online publications on the topics that are important to her.

Feature image (on top): Volvo.

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