Vision Zero Award for the Finnish City of Mikkeli

Author: Hannes Rügheimer

Feb 08, 2023 Safety on the road

For nine consecutive years from 2012 to 2020, the Finnish city of Mikkeli did not have a single traffic fatality. DEKRA recognized this success with its Vision Zero Award 2022. A look at the city and its measures provides clues to the factors that make such successes possible.

The medium-sized Finnish city of Mikkeli is located about 230 kilometers northeast of the capital, Helsinki. It has a population of around 53,000 and – not untypical for rural regions in Finland – a comparatively low population density with an area of around 2,500 square kilometers of land and around 680 square kilometers of water.
In the nine years between 2012 and 2020, Mikkeli did not record a single traffic fatality. This puts it at the top of the DEKRA interactive world map in Finland at To create it, DEKRA experts continuously evaluate the latest available accident statistics from 26 countries in Europe, America, Asia, and Oceania. The interactive map lists the cities with more than 50,000 inhabitants that have achieved the goal of zero traffic fatalities for at least one year since 2009.
In 2022, DEKRA recognized the success in Mikkeli with its “Vision Zero Award”, which was presented for the sixth time in Brussels. Mikkeli’s Director of Land Use and Planning, Topiantti Äikäs, accepted the award from DEKRA CEO Stan Zurkiewicz.
Considering the needs of all road users equally
When asked about the winning formula for this performance, Topiantti Äikäs modestly replied that the success mainly comes from the framework of Finnish traffic planning laws and perhaps some special characteristics of Mikkeli. “In traffic planning and urban development, it’s important to consider the needs of pedestrians, cyclists, cars, and other traffic equally,” emphasizes the Director of Land Use and Planning. Another reason for the success is that local politics and their representatives pull together on a state level. “Traffic safety, sustainability, and energy savings should be at the top of the list of goals on all these levels,” says Topiantti Äikäs. In the interview with DEKRA solutions, he also emphasizes that measures such as the establishment of roundabouts and inner city speed limits down to 30 km/h played an important role in achieving traffic safety.
“Our award winners and many other cities around the world continue to prove that Vision Zero is achievable,” comments DEKRA CEO Stan Zurkiewicz. “Approximately 1,200 cities have reached zero traffic deaths in at least one year, many of them over multiple years. But the fact remains: Every traffic fatality is one too many.” Efforts must continue to work towards the goal of “zero traffic deaths” in more and more cities, as well as outside of urban areas, according to Zurkiewicz.
Progress toward “Vision Zero”
With its Vision Zero Award, DEKRA aims to inspire cities and countries around the world to incorporate this goal into their road safety strategies and planning. At the same time, the company itself has been contributing to improved road safety for a long time: In October 2021, DEKRA entered the vehicle testing business in Finland – one of the stations is located in Mikkeli.
Moreover, the initiative is showing more and more success. For example, the Greek government – inspired in part by DEKRA’s Vision Zero map – has set the goal of achieving zero traffic fatalities in at least 40 cities over 50,000 inhabitants by 2025 in the current draft of its road safety strategy. By 2030, the goal is zero traffic fatalities in 49 cities.
In Finland, Mikkeli is one of 18 cities that have achieved the goal of zero traffic fatalities over at least one year since 2009, and the only one that has managed to do so a total of ten times. Mikkeli can also report zero traffic fatalities for 2021.
Unfortunately, the city will not be able to add an eleventh year to its success. Director of Land Use and Planning, Äikäs, sadly reports: “In 2022, we unfortunately had a traffic accident with a fatality in our city. It involved a cyclist who, according to the state of the investigation that I know of, was drunk while riding. Something like this is tragic and completely unnecessary – but even with the best traffic planning, you can’t prevent it one hundred percent.” Mikkeli is not deterred from its path by this setback, however.
Three questions for Topiantti Äikäs, Director of Land Use and Planning, City of Mikkeli
Did Mikkeli have a deliberate plan to reduce accident fatalities to zero from the very beginning?
Äikäs: The number zero was not the key objective at first. I would rather say that this success has resulted from the general conditions and perhaps some special characteristics of Mikkeli. Of course, traffic planning in Finland pursues the goal of avoiding any traffic fatality. However, the size and special location of our city – we are located at a traffic junction and have many incorporated, smaller municipalities that are now part of Mikkeli – has certainly favored the realization. For example, the state road that runs through our city is already in a very good condition.
Which other specific measures have you implemented?
Äikäs: Many of them are simply examples of good traffic planning – good visibility on the roads, the use of roundabouts instead of intersections, but also comparatively strict speed limits in inner city areas, for example. We reduce the speed limit in front of kindergartens, schools, and shopping centers to 30 km/h, and to at least 40 km/h in many other places. This does mean that driving inattentively quickly results in a warning – but our success proves us right. Another important aspect is a holistic view of urban planning. Like in many countries, public resources are limited in Finland. Close collaboration and good coordination between all parties involved are therefore important success factors. We also hire private consulting firms to help us with the planning – although they are in competition with each other.
Have you gained any insights or experiences you can share with other cities?
Äikäs: Of course, the planning and implementation is ultimately up to each municipality. I think it is fundamentally important that state and regional decision makers pursue the same goals. Traffic safety, sustainability, and energy saving should be at the top of the list of objectives at all these levels. Finnish planning law also provides for very close involvement of the citizens affected. We have had good experiences in taking their suggestions, ideas, or even concerns seriously, and take them into account in our planning and execution.