Death toll on Czech roads lowest in five decades

Czech roads finally became safer last year. According to police statistics released on Thursday, 2010 saw the lowest number of road deaths in five decades, despite a slight surge in the overall number of accidents. The police say greater awareness among drivers, together with a better approach by traffic police themselves, were among the principle causes.

Police top brass beamed with pride on Thursday as they announced the latest figures about safety on the country’s roads. Compared with other EU nations, Czechs have not been doing that well in recent years, ranking eighth in the number of road deaths per capita. But the number has been decreasing since it reached its peak in the late 1990s, and last year, it was lower than ever. Ivan Bílek is Czech police deputy chief.

Ivan Bílek
“We have checked all our statistics several times, and we also looked the methodology. The results proved to be quite positive, and I’m happy to say that in 2010, the number of people killed and seriously wounded in road accidents was the lowest since 1961, which was when the police first started keeping these records.”

Looking at the numbers, 753 people died on Czech roads last year, 10 percent down from the previous year. Over 2,800 people suffered serious injuries in traffic accidents, which is more than 20 percent less than in 2009.

Leoš Tržil
Czech police originally set an even more ambitious goal for last year: bringing the death toll down to 650. But that turned out to be an impossible target as this summer was exceptionally bad. In July alone, 97 people died in car crashes. Leoš Tržil is the chief of the Czech traffic police.

“I’m sure that last year could have been even better than this. I think that with the help of the media, we need to draw more attention to the risky periods. That worked really well during the Easter break, but at the beginning of the summer holidays, there was a steep surge in the number of accidents. I think that we should have paid more attention to that, and we will work to prepare our drivers better for this risky period this year.”

And the officials had some more good news. In 2010, the number of accidents caused by drunk drivers dropped by more than 12 percent, while the number of victims in these accidents fell by over 17 percent. According to figures by the European Transport Safety Council, the Czech Republic recently registered the steepest reduction of alcohol-related road deaths of all EU member states. Leoš Tržil again.

“Despite the fact that alcohol tests were administered at every road check, the number is lower than in 2009. That’s very positive, and we believe that many drivers became aware of the issue and don’t drive after drinking. I hope that this year, the decrease will be even greater.”

The reasons why Czechs seem to have improved at driving are complex, said Mr Tržil. One of them is that road safety is a frequent topic in the media, and drivers became more aware of the risks. Also, the police say they instigated many more construction adjustments at accident blackspots, acting increasingly on drivers’ suggestions.

On the downside, the overall number of accidents in the Czech Republic rose slightly in 2010. Three more children were victims of roads crashes last year as compared with 2009. There are more aggressive drivers, and cars on Czech roads are often in poor technical condition. This year, police want to focus on these issues, hoping the favourable trend will continue in 2011.