Fifteen die on Czech roads over holiday weekend

Photo: CTK

This past holiday weekend proved one of the most deadly in recent memory on Czech roads. Police had warned drivers in advance to take extra caution with the coming of warm spring weather and not to take unnecessary risks. It wasn’t enough: fifteen people were killed while on the road, five of them motorcyclists. Regarding the latter, statistics released by the non-profit European Transport Safety Council, suggest that when it comes to motorcycle fatalities, the Czechs rank among the worst in Europe.

Photo: CRo 7 - Radio Prague
A study released by the organisation in 2007 found that motorcyclist deaths in the Czech Republic were second-highest among 22 countries: an average of 300 deaths per billion kilometres. The figure is five times higher, for example, than in neighbouring Germany. By comparison, the countries best off in terms of motorcycle and road safety are Norway, Switzerland and Denmark. What elements play a role in the high number of such fatalities in the Czech Republic? A little earlier I spoke to Petr Říha, a road safety specialist for Dekra Czech Republic:

“There are a number of different elements: if we discuss those beyond riders’ control, I would say they are the overall state of Czech roads as well as the poor use of road signs. Often after winter you see potholes and broken surfaces that can only lead to accidents. Then, often there are areas where there is an overabundance of signs, which has a negative effect. If you are asked to slow down then speed up and so on over a short area, people often ignore them. But of course fault often also lies with riders themselves, who drive too fast or ignore conditions.”

Many have noted that getting a motorcycle licence in the Czech Republic is not especially difficult, with new riders gaining access to powerful machines they’re not always ready to handle. Petr Říha again:

“It’s partly to do with the motorcycle itself: there’s a euphoria connected to getting on a bike and the result is that - whether you want to or not - you push safety boundaries more than you normally would. Even if you ride carefully and obey the rules, there is a risk, because of the sense of freedom. You go faster and then can have less time to react.”

Photo: CTK
For their part police were out in force to try and increase safety to get those on the road to respect the speed limit. But even they admit it can never be enough. Traffic Police head Leoš Tržil spoke to Czech TV:

“The police can’t stand at every corner, and can’t be posted every five hundred metres. At the end of the day, it’s about how drivers themselves behave on the road.”

Every year the police encourage those on the road over the first spring holidays to take extra care, but all too often the message, as well as chilling images on the evening news, fail to hit home. That’s one reason why the Transport Ministry not long ago commissioned a series of graphic new commercials on road accidents which pull no punches. Sadly, even there it is not clear the message is getting across.