We have a stiff challenge ahead of us. But Sweden has done it before: identified a problem in society, found solutions and achieved significant results.
One of the best examples is the way we were able – with a broad commitment to road safety across society – to reverse an alarming rise in the number of deaths on our roads. The keys to doing that were technological innovation, world-leading research and wise legislation.
In the 1960s, when the statistics were at their worst, 1,300 people died in a single year on Sweden’s roads. Everyone who saw the link between growing vehicle numbers and the numbers of deaths and injuries was, quite rightly, deeply concerned. If that trend had continued to the present day, getting on for 10,000 people would now have been killed in traffic accidents every year. Instead, there are fewer than 300 fatalities annually, even though the volume of traffic today is many times what it used to be.
The improvement in road safety represents a major gain at every level, not least in human terms. The benefits for Sweden’s economy have also been substantial. And the change was just as important for the country’s automotive industry, which saw commercial successes underpinned by new, innovative technology.
Corresponding safety improvements have been achieved in all modes of transport. One example is ATC (automatic train control) technology in the rail sector, which monitors rail traffic and dramatically reduces the risk of accidents due to driver error.
The Forum for Innovation in the Transport Sector has learnt lessons from and been inspired by the broad support and successes achieved in the field of transport safety. If everyone in the industry works together, we will be able to achieve the goal of a sustainable and competitive transport sector.
With the knowledge that we have done it before, it will be easier to do it again.