Czech government approves big changes to Road Traffic Act
The Czech government has approved an amendment to the Road Traffic Act that will mean higher penalties for the most serious transgressions such as speeding and drink-driving, while allowing young people to start driving a year earlier, from the age of 17, under the supervision of a parent. The proposed changes are expected to go into force next year.
Czech roads are not the safest in Europe. According to preliminary statistics, 468 people died and over 1,600 were seriously injured in road accidents in Czechia last year.
The most serious transgressions, which often result in fatal accidents, are speeding, drink-driving and using a hand-held mobile phone while driving. Under the proposed bill, all of these transgressions will result in steeper fines. The penalty points system will be simplified to two, four or six points for a given violation. Transgressions such as speeding and drink driving will result in higher fines and a maximum six penalty points. With a maximum limit of 12 points this means “two strikes and you are out” for serious transgressions and “three strikes and you are out” for less serious ones. On reaching 12 points the driver’s license is confiscated for the duration of a year after which they have to take tests anew.
On-the-spot fines will double to CZK 5,500 for serious offences. For less serious offences, such as a passenger not being strapped in with a seatbelt, the on-the-spot penalty is set at CZK 1,500 to 2,000. For moderately serious offences, such as failing to give way, it is CZK 2,500 to 3,500. For the most serious, such as running a red light, it is CZK 4,500 to 5,500.
If a driver refuses an alcohol test, he or she will face a fine of up to CZK 75,000. Today, the maximum is CZK 50,000. A fine of up to CZK 25,000 can be imposed for speeding, entering a level crossing despite a ban or for running a red light. The fine for the latter will increase fivefold to CZK 25,000 in administrative proceedings.
Under the proposed amendment to the Road Traffic Act young people would also be allowed to start driving at the age of 17 under the supervision of a parent or another experienced driver with a clean slate. In view of the fact that the majority of serious accidents are caused by young inexperienced drivers in the first five years of active driving, this has met with mixed reactions. Critics say it will only make matters worse, while the Transport Ministry argues that starting at 17 would give young people more experience and that a full year’s driving under the supervision of a parent or some other responsible adult could instill safe driving habits far better than a three-week driving course.