Psychologist: Attitude of politicians and poor enforcement behind rise in road fatalities

Photo: CTK

The past weekend saw as many as 16 people die in car accidents across the Czech Republic. Ninety people were killed in traffic accidents throughout September, which along with June has been the most tragic month on Czech roads this year. After a new and stricter traffic law came into force in July, police immediately reported a marked drop in the number of fatal accidents. But since then, Czech drivers seemed to have relaxed again and returned to their old bad habits.

Photo: CTK
We spoke to transport psychologist Iva Macku from the Transport Research Centre in Brno and began by asking her whether Czechs were really such careless drivers.

"Well, I wouldn't say that Czech drivers have a special mentality, in comparison with other drivers in the European Union. I just think we maybe need to be somehow better controlled. It can be shown on the traffic safety situation after the introduction of the penalty points system. The situation on Czech roads after the introduction of the system quite significantly improved, especially in July and August this year. Even some proposals of this law did not expect such a great achievement. However, recently the number of fatalities and traffic accidents has started approaching the same level as before the penalty points system."

What do you think has caused this increase?

"From my point of view it may be caused by several factors. One may be that there is a lack of police patrols on the streets and roads, so our drivers just learned that they will not be caught in fact. I also think that our politicians play an important role who keep talking about a possible reduction in strictness of the penalty points system. In other words, they are telling people, 'Don't worry, it will be better', which is just not the right thing how to change the attitude of drivers.

And then I would also say that Czech drivers don't have good models in politicians and policemen. We could notice during the summer that some members of the police force did not observe the speed limit and so on. So I think, this combination of factors, from my point of view, has led to the current situation."

Do you think it is fair to say that Czechs used to be better drivers before the fall of communism and that somehow they changed their habits in the 1990s for the worse?

"Well, I think it would be very simplified to say that. If we look at the statistics of traffic accidents after the Velvet Revolution, it was a big increase in fatalities and traffic accidents even in comparison with the 1980s in this country. Maybe I would say I could be caused by new fast cars, but that's just a thought. I wouldn't say this could be said so simply. But I would like to repeat that we are not different than other drivers. We just need more control of the system."