Driver in fatal crash sentenced to four years in prison

A court in Prague has sentenced a bus driver from the town of Kladno, who caused an accident last year in which ten passengers died and 27 were seriously injured, to four years in prison. The driver and ten other passengers survived the horrific crash unharmed. Alena Skodova has this report:

The bus travelling from Kladno to Prague, carrying commuters in the early morning rush-hour, collided with a stationary lorry parked on the hard shoulder. The right side of the bus was ripped off in the impact, and the bus ploughed off a motorway into a field. Ten people died, in the most serious accident on Czech roads in several decades.

The district court in western Prague increased by one year a sentence demanded for driver Ludek Cerny by the state attorney and confirmed a psychologist's report that Mr Cerny should never have been behind the wheel in the first place.

What came as a surprise during the trial was testimony from an eye specialist, who revealed that having checked the driver's eyes last June he discovered that Mr Cerny was shortsighted. The optician explained that the driver's vision was below the standard necessary for professional drivers. In reality this means that the afflicted person can tell the details of an object on a distance twice as short than someone with healthy eyes, and it also takes him longer to react properly.

The driver's lawyer had originally demanded a suspended sentence for his client, and after the verdict was announced, both he and the state attorney said they were considering an appeal.

There is currently a heated debate in parliament about road safety. MPs are discussing amendments to the law on transport which envisages raising, not lowering, the speed limit. The present speed limit on a motorway is 130 kilometres per hour, and some MPs would like to see this turned into a "recommended" speed. Opponents say this might result in a higher number of road accidents, because Czech motorways were built for a maximum speed of 140 kilometres per hour.