Vision Zero is a wholly different approach to safety planning than traditional practice, starting with the fact that it is focused on fatality and serious injury elimination, rather than reduction. The Vision Zero Network identifies two primary distinctions between Vision Zero and the current safety-planning paradigm:

Vision Zero acknowledges that traffic deaths and severe injuries are preventable and sets the goal of eliminating both in a set period with clear, measurable strategies. This is a major shift for most North American communities by establishing clear accountability to ensure safe mobility. History has shown, with campaigns to reduce drunk driving and initiatives to increase recycling, that changing cultural attitudes and ensuring political accountability make a dramatic difference—and increase success.

Vision Zero is a multidisciplinary approach, bringing together diverse and necessary stakeholders to address this complex problem. In the past, meaningful, cross-disciplinary collaboration among local traffic planners and engineers, law enforcement officials, policymakers, and public health professionals has not been the norm. Vision Zero acknowledges that there are many factors that contribute to safe mobility—including roadway design, speeds, enforcement, behaviors, technology, and policies—and sets clear goals to achieve the shared goal of zero fatalities and severe injuries.