Chaos expected after new highway code comes into force in January

The Czech parliament has decided to introduce radical new road regulations as of January 2001. The government failed to persuade MPs to postpone the law by six months so that everyone could get properly acquainted with it. So What changes does the new law introduce to road traffic? Vladimir Tax explains:

The new law is expected to create considerable chaos on Czech roads as drivers, cyclists, pedestrians and the police have only a couple of days to learn the new rules which bring the Czech highway code closer to standards common in Western Europe. These include absolute priority for pedestrians on crossings, a ban on mobile phones while driving without a hands-free set, compulsory headlights throughout winter--day and night--and also mandatory child seats for children under 12 or shorter than 150 cm.

The biggest problems are expected to emerge with issuing new driving licences. This plus collection of penalties, issuing licence plates and administering accident reports will be transferred from the police to regional authorities and the ministry of transport. Experts are convinced that the state administration is totally unprepared to take on these new duties.

Driving schools haven't been given the new rules for driving tests and do not have professional instructors to replace police officers. Applicants who have just enrolled in driving schools do not know whether they will be tested on the old or the new highway code. The minister of transport himself was quoted as warning drivers against possible chaos.

The new law which introduces some much-needed stricter regulations comes into force in three weeks' time. Despite all the indisputably positive changes, many still doubt whether it wouldn't have been more reasonable to postpone the law by half a year to give both drivers and the authorities enough time to prepare for it.