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Portland Bureau of Transportation

Phone: 503-823-5185

Fax: 503-823-7576

1120 SW Fifth Ave, Suite 800, Portland, OR 97204

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What is Vision Zero?

Vision Zero is data-driven. Crash data from 2004-2013 was analyzed in an effort to understand the causes of traffic violence in Portland. The data revealed significant factors contributing to deaths and serious injuries on Portland streets, as well as where most of those crashes occurred.

Download the PDF version of "What is Vision Zero?"

Close examination reveals that many deadly crashes happen as a result of dangerous behaviors:

While a deadly or serious injury crash can happen anywhere, more of them happen on certain street types. Wide, fast arterials with multiple lanes in each direction see a disproportionate number of traffic deaths. All too often, these streets run through lower-income neighborhoods where people rely heavily on walking and transit.


Vision Zero recognizes that people make mistakes. Impairment, speeding, distracted driving, aggressive driving—these are behaviors to be discouraged, and Vision Zero lays out a coordinated set of actions to deter them.

But we must also design streets that enable and encourage safe behaviors. Streets should discourage dangerous driving by design. The safest streets slow down traffic, provide separation between modes, and provide visual cues that make it clear that people using different modes share the space. These streets keep all people safer—even when they make mistakes.

At the other end of the spectrum, wide streets with four or more lanes of fast-moving traffic, unprotected pedestrian crossings and bike lanes, and longer distances between signals are the places where deadly crashes happen most often. While mistakes can occur anywhere, these streets are where those mistakes more often can have lethal consequences. In Portland, over half of deadly crashes occur on just 8% of our streets. The maps in the next section show where these are located. Fixing them is a central element of Portland’s Vision Zero strategy.

Anatomy of a dangerous street

Safe street design is context dependent. This sketch identifies select attributes and is for illustrative purposes only.


Alcohol and drug impairment is a major contributor to death and injury on our streets. More than half of deadly crashes in Portland involve people who are intoxicated. On average, a drunk driver has driven drunk over 80 times before his or her first arrest.


Speed can be deadly. Alone or in combination with other factors, speed is a major factor in 47% of Portland’s traffic deaths.

Speed impacts the severity of a crash. A person walking struck by a person driving 40 mph is eight times more likely to die than one struck by a person driving at 20 mph. 

Vision Zero puts our desire to get somewhere fast in the context of the profound implications of speed on human life.

In a city where people walking make up a disproportionate number of traffic deaths, slowing speeds is critical. Getting there will take a suite of policy, infrastructure, education, and enforcement actions.

Posted speed limits tell drivers the speed at which they should be driving in normal conditions. In turn, the posted speed needs to match the speed that is safe. Street design is integral to achieving the desired driving speed, directly influencing the driving speed that feels comfortable. Street and lane width, signal spacing, markings, buffers, curb extensions, and medians can all affect a driver's speed.

In tandem with design, working to change social norms, education, and enforcement reinforce community expectations about safety and compliance.


Dangerous behaviors include those that arise from aggressive or distracted driving. Disregarding traffic signals or stop signs, failing to yield the right-of-way when turning, or driving the wrong way—these unpredictable behaviors can lead in an instant to injury or death, especially for vulnerable street users.

Survey Results: Distracted driving is a dangerous epidemic

A person is injured in a distracted driver crash in Oregon every 3 hours

A 2016 Oregon Department of Transportation survey found that 84% of respondents feel uncomfortable riding as a passenger with a distracted driver. At the same time, 44% admitted to driving distracted with passengers, and 75% admitted to driving distracted when alone.


Data drives our understanding of where and why deaths and serious injuries occur. Traffic crash data is an important tool to identify where deadly and serious injury crashes happen and what factors contribute to them. Reaching beyond crash data, other data sources used to develop this plan include equity metrics, demographic information, hospital trauma data, fire response data, and Oregon Liquor Control Commission data related to impaired driving (see map above).

Traffic crash data has identified where Portland's most serious crashes are occurring and what factors are contributing to the crashes. Communities of Concern equity data focuses investments on the portions of those streets with the greatest safety needs. The Vision Zero guiding principles direct that both sets of data be used to identify and prioritize investment.

Traffic crash data

"SERIOUS INJURY" also called "incapacitating" or "major" injury:
A non-fatal injury that prevents the injured person from walking,
driving, or normally continuing the activities the person was
capable of performing before the injury occurred

Ten years of records (2004-2013) that included over 100,000 crashes and more than 225,000 participants were analyzed to identify top crash locations and contributing factors. The data was collected by the Oregon Department of Transportation Crash Analysis and Reporting Unit.

Equity data: Communities of Concern

“Communities of Concern” is a composite index of 10 equity indicators identified by TriMet, Portland's regional transit provider. The geographic area that makes up Communities of Concern includes the census blocks in Portland that scored in the top quartile of the following 10 equity indicators:

  • People of color
  • Low-income households
  • People with disabilities
  • Low English Proficiency persons
  • Youth
  • Older adults
  • Affordable housing
  • Lower paying jobs
  • Poor vehicle access
  • Access to services

Persons who are members of Communities of Concern may live anywhere in the city, but comprise a higher percentage of the population in these areas.

Communities of Concern is a term that helps identify areas of Portland that may need extra investment in street safety. These areas have populations that score high on the 10 equity indicators listed above. Compared to other neighborhoods, people living in Communities of Concern may have fewer choices about how, when and where they travel, putting them at higher risk as they move around. Portland will prioritize Vision Zero investments in Communities of Concern.

View draft plan as an interactive storymap