2005 road death figures lowest in 15 years, but more needs to be done, says official

Photo: CTK

The Czech Republic has one of the worst road death records in Europe, but this week there was some positive news, with the police announcing the number of road deaths in 2005 was 7 percent less than the previous year. In all 1,127 people died on Czech roads last year, the lowest number for a decade and a half. I discussed this positive development with Robert Stastny, head of the Ministry of Transport's road safety department.

"It's the second year of decrease - we hope that this tendency will go on. It's the result of a combination of different measures. The police are acting more on the roads. There are prevention activities, especially awareness campaigns promoting speed limits, seatbelts, child restraint systems."

I've been reading that one factor could be that more Czechs now have new cars.

"Yeah, it's true, modern technology in vehicles has improved road safety. That fact is not so important now, but it will be in the future."

This is the only country in Europe where there are more accidents now than in 1980 - is that because more Czechs have cars?

"Of course it is, and very different cars. It's a problem of eastern Europe I think, not only Czechia but also Poland and Hungary and Slovakia. Discipline is lower, because in the communist time there was very strong enforcement.

Photo: CTK
"Cars are stronger and faster, and the number of vehicles on the vehicles on the road is several times higher, so of course it is worse."

What's interesting is that the number of serious injuries is also down, but the number of accidents is slightly up - it's 1.4 percent up on the previous year. How can you explain that deaths are down, injuries are down, but the number of accidents is practically the same?

"If we have fatalities it's a very clear number. But as for the number of accidents, it's a question of what is monitored and what isn't, because in our law not every accident must be notified to the police.

"In the past people solved it themselves, but now they are afraid of problems with insurance companies, so they call the police. So the number of recorded accidents is higher, but maybe that's not in line with reality."

Photo: CTK
These figures are positive, it's good news, but in general the Czech Republic still has relatively high numbers of road deaths - what more needs to be done improve that situation?

"I think that in the first place is enforcement. The experience of other countries such as France, Austria and Latvia shows that it makes sense. During this year there, from the middle of this year, a new law will be valid about stronger enforcement, and new rules. We hope this will lead to further improvement.

"So I think enforcement is very important, but also the awareness and information of people - we have for example a problem with the safety of child passengers, and we must persuade parents that it's totally necessary to use child restraint systems."