Czech drivers study new rules as points system approaches

They're calling it a revolution on the roads. On July 1st, the Czech Republic - which has one of the worst accident rates in Europe - will see the introduction of a new law including a points system for driving offences. The new rules are controversial, but the police and Transport Ministry say there is no other way to bring the country's reckless drivers under control.

The Czech Republic is high up on the league table of deaths on the roads, along with countries such as Greece and Portugal. Last year, the number of deaths fell, but the number of accidents rose. Critics say in general Czech drivers drive too fast, don't keep their distance, take unnecessary risks and are generally very aggressive - which is an odd thing for such a passive nation. The standard of driving is generally worse in and around Prague, but nationwide the situation has improved ever so slightly.

The biggest single change in the new law is the introduction of a points system for driving offences. Rack up twelve, and you lose your licence and are banned from driving for a year. You also have to take your driving test again to get your licence back. Variations of the points system is used in most of Western Europe - Germany, France, Britain, Italy, Austria etc - but also Hungary and Poland. In most countries, it's been highly effective. The points system does not replace the current system of fines - fines remain, and will be much higher from July 1.

There are several other changes. Chief among them is that the police will be able to confiscate driving licences on the spot, thus, in theory, taking the most dangerous drivers out of circulation immediately. That will be only for very the most serious offences, such as causing an accident where someone is killed or injured, leaving the scene of an accident, drink driving and so on.

Some claim the new rules will encourage corruption, as drivers will be desperate not to rack up points and lose their licence. Though there is corruption in the present system, and is less to do with the system itself and more to do with the honesty of individual police officers and of course drivers. Others complain drivers will rack up points for most banal offences. However the system is new, and will probably be gradually amended over time.

The police plan to begin using the system immediately on July 1. If a driver is caught running a red light or drinking and driving, he or she will be punished immediately with points. The police say they will be less stringent with minor offences, but probably not for long. Anyone living or travelling to the Czech Republic is advised to acquaint themselves with the new rules as soon as possible; there's a big publicity campaign underway at the moment. And foreigners beware - the points system will apply to you, even if you don't have a Czech driving licence.

Click here for a basic summary in English of the new rules for driving in the Czech Republic (source: Autoklub Czech Republic)