How did Norway achieve the lowest traffic fatality rate in the world?

26 November 2019

Since 2010, Norway has cut the number of traffic fatalities due to motor vehicle crashes nearly in half – from 208 to 107. That’s an impressive accomplishment since the country already has one of the best road safety records in the world measured in a variety of ways.

As cited in the 2019 Road Safety Annual Report issued by the International Transport Forum, Norway has the lowest mortality rate owing to road deaths as measured by population, number of registered vehicles and distance travelled amongst the 33 countries, including Canada and the US, whose road safety data is validated by the International Traffic Safety Data and Analysis Group. It also achieved the greatest percentage reduction in passenger motor vehicle deaths and deaths of young people (18-24).

Like Canada, Norway is a large country with a small population. It describes its road infrastructure system as complex and inefficient and its motor vehicle population as older, thus having fewer built-in safety technologies.

How did Norway do it? What is its secret?

The Norwegian Ministry of Transport and Communications credits establishing the “Vision Zero” goal in 1999 and then remaining committed to achieving it through a multi-layered, multi-pronged approach.

In 2018, Norway introduced its 5th four-year “Vision Zero” strategic plan a testament to the country’s commitment. This latest plan bears the hallmarks of the elements that have led to increasingly reduced motor vehicle incidents in Norway. It starts with consistent, high level political commitment to the goal and is supported by the following:

  • Developing a fully integrated approach addressing 13 different priority areas covering a range of topics including driver behaviours (like seat belt use and speed reduction), risk groups, vehicle technology, and work conditions
  • Establishing benchmarks and measuring progress through specific targets and interim key performance indicators
  • Creating specific and targetted measures after collecting and analysing the most useful data to understand the road safety risk for different population groups
  • Highlighting that road safety is both a shared and personal responsibility for all road users
  • Using intelligent transport / vehicle technology systems
  • Fostering cooperation of all levels of government to enhance safety through road infrastructure improvements
  • Employing targetted enforcement
  • Involving a wide variety of public and private sector organizations

Norway’s success is something Canada, and other countries, can all learn from. We’ve started on this journey through Canada’s Road Safety Strategy 2025, Towards Zero: The Safest Roads in the World and BC’s own Road Safety Strategy, but there is more to be done. Do your part. Let’s be more like Norway!