Better training for new drivers perceived as key to making Czech roads safer

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Although billions of crowns are spent on the modernization of Czech roads every year, being on the road in this country is not always a pleasant experience. Czech drivers are reputed to be inconsiderate, aggressive and inclined to take risks. And finding a solution to the problem has been an issue of heated debate for years.

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The Czech Republic’s poor road safety record has been addressed by a series of governments since 1989, by-and-large with scant success. Although the number of fatalities on Czech roads has gradually decreased over the years, the country still ranks near the bottom of the EU ladder in road safety. In 2018 the Czech Republic placed 21st on the list of 28 member states, just ahead of Greece.

Although the Czech Republic has zero tolerance for drink-driving, driving under the influence continues to be a problem, as does talking on a handheld mobile phone, failing to keep a safe distance, reckless driving and speeding.

A new road law, effected in 2006, introduced a new points system aimed at reducing speeding, drink driving but above all the number of deaths on Czech roads. Although initial figures suggested it might prove effective, the number of road accidents and fatalities fluctuated in the years that followed and the points system has remained a matter of controversy ever since.

A thorough overhaul of the points system proposed under the former transport minister, Dan Tok, has been on the table for months with almost 200 reservations to it tabled by various driving school instructors. Now it looks like it may stay there for a while longer.

The country’s new transport minister, Vladimir Kremlik is far from happy with the proposed amendment, arguing that it is too strict in some areas and too lenient in others. Moreover it fails to devote more attention to new drivers who are particularly accident-prone in their first five years on the road, most often due to reckless driving, inattention and speeding.

Under the proposed overhaul to the road law new drivers would get their license for a two-year “test period” and would lose it for just half the penalty points for which experienced drivers get it revoked. The head of the Czech Association of Driving Schools Ondřej Horázný says this approach would be counter-productive.

Photo: Gabriela Hauptvogelová / Czech Radio
“That is not a solution to the problem. It is as if you said that schoolchildren who had failed in a given subject would be sent away and not be allowed extra tuition. Reprisals will not make young people better drivers.”

The Czech Republic is now eyeing neighbouring Austria which appears to produce better drivers, while giving them slightly fewer training hours –both in practical knowledge and on the road. The difference is that in their first year on the road Austrian drivers have to undergo additional training courses. In the last 16 years this policy has reduced the number of accidents caused by new drivers by 30 percent. The Czech Republic is hoping to follow suit. But judging by past experience, it may be years before we see the results. Until then drivers on Czech roads will have to arm themselves with patience and caution.