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Ethical Issues in the Adoption and Implementation of Vision Zero Policies in Road Safety

Time: Tue 2023-11-14 13.00

Location: Campus, Kollegiesallen, Brinellvägen 6

Video link:

Language: English

Subject area: Philosophy

Doctoral student: Henok Girma Abebe , Filosofi

Opponent: Docent Elin Palm, Linköpings Universitet

Supervisor: Docent Karin Edvardsson Björnberg, Filosofi; Professor Emeritus Sven Ove Hansson, Filosofi; Adjungerad Professor Matts-Åke Belin, Filosofi och historia

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The aim of this doctoral thesis is to analyze ethical issues in the adoption and implementation of Vision Zero policies. 

The first article analyses criticisms against Vision Zero goals and measures promoted to reach them. We identify and assess “moral”, “operational”, and “rationality-based” arguments against Vision Zero. In total, thirteen different criticisms are analyzed. 

The second article seeks to reconcile the two major decision-making principles in road safety work, i.e., Cost Benefit Analysis and Vision Zero, which are often viewed as incompatible. We argue that the two principles can be compatible if the implementation of Vision Zero accepts temporal compromises intended to promote efficient allocation of resources, and the results of Cost Benefit Analysis are viewed not as optimal and satisfactory as long as fatal and serious injuries continue occurring. 

The third article uses Vision Zero as a normative framework to explore and analyze road safety work in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The ensuing analysis shows that there are significant differences between Addis Ababa road safety policies and Vision Zero in terms of how road safety problems are understood and in their responsibility ascriptions for improving road safety problems. It is argued that enhancing road safety in the city requires promoting a broader view of the causes and remedies of road safety problems. Moreover, given the magnitude and severity of road safety problems in the city, it is vital to emphasize the moral responsibility of actors responsible for the design and operation of the road system, and entities that procure and own large number of vehicles. 

The fourth article analyses equity and social justice considerations in Vision Zero efforts in New York City (NYC). Moreover, this study seeks to understand and assess how the city accounts for equity and social justice implications of road safety work. The result of the study shows that equity and social justice considerations played important roles in the initial adoption of Vision Zero policy in the city. Nonetheless, the study also shows that the adoption and implementation process gave rise to important equity and social justice issues which are primarily related to the method of prioritization used in road safety work in the city, equity and fairness in the distribution of life saving interventions, the socioeconomic impacts of road safety strategies, and the nature of community engagement in policy design and implementation. The findings of this study, among others, point to a need for Vision Zero practitioners to give due considerations to equity and social justice implications of Vision Zero policies and strategies. 

The fifth article analyzes the nature and moral acceptability of risk impositions from car driving in a low-income country context. It is shown that car driving involves an unfair and morally problematic risk imposition in which some stakeholders, namely those who decide on the nature of the risk in the road system and benefit the most from car driving, impose a significant risk of harm on others, who neither benefit from the risk imposition nor have decision-making role related to the risks they are exposed to. It is argued that addressing moral problems arising from the unfair risk imposition necessitates the promotion, on the part of beneficiaries and decision makers, of certain types of moral obligations related to the nature and magnitude of road crash risks. Importantly, those who benefit the most from car driving, and actors who decide on the risk level in the road system, have the moral obligation to implement effective risk reducing measures that protect those unfairly risk exposed, obligations to know more about road crash risks, obligations to compensate victims, obligations to communicate with the risk exposed and incorporate their concerns in policy making, and obligations to bring about attitudinal change.