Responsibility ascriptions and Vision Zero

Accid Anal Prev. 2006 Nov;38(6):1113-8. doi: 10.1016/j.aap.2006.04.020. Epub 2006 Jul 28.


Vision Zero is a traffic safety policy that was adopted by the Swedish Parliament in 1997. Similar policies have been adopted in Norway and Denmark. In essence, Vision Zero states that it is unacceptable for anyone to die while using the road transport system. The policy also introduces an explicit distribution of responsibility for traffic safety, in which the system designers are ultimately responsible. In this article, it is argued that the proposed new distribution of responsibility can be better understood if we distinguish between two general types of responsibility ascriptions, namely backward-looking and forward-looking responsibility ascriptions. Both types include some kind of causal responsibility and whereas backward-looking responsibility implies an element of blame, forward-looking responsibility implies potential blame, meaning that in cases where the agent who was ascribed responsibility did not achieve the expected result, we are likely to blame her. Vision Zero still ascribes backward-looking responsibility and to some degree forward-looking responsibility to individuals, but adds the explicit forward-looking responsibility of the system designers.

MeSH terms

  • Accidents, Traffic* / statistics & numerical data
  • Causality
  • Humans
  • Public Policy*
  • Safety / standards*
  • Social Responsibility*
  • Sweden