CEE Distinguished Seminar Series -- Peter van Rijn (Vision Zero)

From Northeastern University:

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
Distinguished Seminar Series

The Dutch “Vision Zero” Traffic Safety Program and what it means for Sustainably Safe Roadway Design

Peter J. van Rijn
Rotterdam University of Applied Sciences
Rotterdam, Netherlands 


Since 1972, Dutch traffic safety programs have achieved an 85% decline in the traffic fatality rate, from about 240 deaths per million residents to 36. The most recent traffic safety program, initiated in 1992, is called “Sustainable Safety” and is part of the European family of “Vision Zero” safety programs which aim for zero traffic fatalities. This talk will describe the main elements of the Dutch traffic safety programs since 1972. The early emphasis was on identifying vulnerable groups, education, and combating alcohol-impaired driving. Since 1992, an added emphasis has been on roadway design, with the idea that roadway design should first prevent as many accidents as possible, and second, in case of accident, should prevent serious injury or death. Key principles of Sustainable Safety are:

  • Functionality: avoiding giving roads functions that are incompatible from the perspective of safety, and ensuring that a road’s speed, volume, and character are consistent with its function.
  • Homogeneity: providing physical separation unless road users have similar mass, speed, and direction.
  • Recognizability: designing roads to be “self-explaining” so that road users know what to expect and so that the driving task becomes more automatic.
  • Forgivingness: designing so that errors do not lead to serious injury or death.
  • State awareness: preventing road users from taking undue risks due to being in an impaired state.


Mr. van Rijn graduated in 1986 as Civil Engineer from The Hague University of Applied Science, with later postgraduate specialization in Traffic Engineering and Transportation Management. He is currently a full-time faculty member at the Rotterdam University of Applied Science, teaching courses including Sustainably Safe Roadway Design and Construction Management in relation to the use of “Building Information Model” (BIM). Former positions include research for the Ministry of Transportation & Water management on integral safe roadway design, and head of construction management for the construction company HABO|gww.