Fewer deaths on Czech roads as new law comes into force
Rarely does a new law cause so much controversy and yet have so much of an impact. A new points system for driving offences went into effect at the weekend with stunning results - the lowest number of deaths on the road since 1988, and the lowest number of accidents in ten years. That is clearly good news. But, despite this, the new transport law which has caused a minor revolution of Czech roads may not survive in its present form.
"I cannot remember a slower journey though Prague - ever. I kept to the 50 km speed limit in town and not a single car overtook me. That is unheard of. You could tell that they were scared. You break the speed limit by just a few kilometers and you lose points and get a two thousand crown fine /the equivalent of almost 100 US dollars/. So you take great care not to let that happen."
The new points system for driving offences is extremely tough by Czech standards. Rack up twelve points and you lose your license for a year and then have to take your driving test all over again. Unlike in the past, the traffic police can now confiscate your driver's license on the spot for a serious offense and the fines are extremely steep. All this has made Czech drivers - generally aggressive and inclined to taking risks - slow down and exercise caution. The results speak for themselves: 10 lives spared in one weekend alone - compared to the same period last year. And the lowest number of accidents in ten years.
"There are conflicting views on this law and I have asked the interior and transport ministers to try and find common ground by next Monday and then we will take things from there."
The Christian Democrats, whose transport minister Milan Simonovsky put forward the new law, are arguing that a sudden about-turn would immediately counteract all the benefits that the new law has brought about. And they are suggesting that the impact of the new legislation should be assessed after a longer period of time. As far as minister Simonovsky is concerned the legislation could in time be made even stricter, as was the case in France, Austria or Ireland.