This remarkable feat was not achieved overnight. It was the result of smarter regulations by Nordic governments, adoption of technology, (re)designing the road to make it safer and cleaner and more fuel-efficient cars that have made the Nordic people careful drivers.
In Sweden for instance, on October 9, 1997, the government introduced ‘‘The Road Traffic Safety Bill’’ founded on ‘’vision zero’’. The ideology behind Vision Zero was that in every situation a person might fail, but the road system should not. Roads in Sweden were redesigned to prioritise safety over speed or convenience. The Swedes introduced low urban speed limits, pedestrian zones and barriers that separate cars from bicycles and oncoming traffic. Quartz and the Economist did the numbers; over the first decade Vision Zero saved around 145 lives (Quartz 2016).
A crackdown on drunk driving has also helped (Quartz, 2016). Within the Nordic region, the average allowed blood alcohol content (BAC) is 0,2 compared with 0,8 in the United Kingdom and the USA among others.
Studying the Swedish model, other Nordic countries have adopted different variants of Vision Zero in addition their own road safety measures. Norway’s Parliament has set a goal to reach 50 000 zero emission vehicles by 2018. Among other things, all-electric cars are exempt from all non-recurring vehicle fees, including purchase taxes, which are extremely high for ordinary cars, and 25 % VAT on purchase.
Pure electric vehicles are also exempt from the annual road tax, all public parking fees, and toll payments (including domestic ferries), as well as being able to use bus lanes. This has made electric cars competitive with conventional cars. The effect is a high growth of electric cars. In 2015 for example, 22,39 % of all cars sold were electric cars compare to 1.07 % in United Kingdom, 0.90 % in Austria. And even though no wide studies have been made, at least our internal statistics at If show that electric cars have a lower accidents ratio.
Insurance companies’ contribution to this?
Insurance forms part of the important societal fabric that provides security for individuals and companies. Therefore, it is not surprising for car insurers to support initiatives to reduce accidents on the road. In If P&C insurance for instance, we have taken it upon ourselves to support programs that reduce road fatalities within the Nordic region. In this regard, we have designed Slow down GPS – a campaign to inform drivers to slow down when driving in zones with lots of children. This is one way to contribute to a more safe and secure society – and the basic idea behind If’s business in general.