Road deaths drop by half in month of July

Photo: CTK

It has been a month since new road traffic and safety legislation was introduced in the Czech Republic and the results have been dramatic. The new system - based on stiff penalties and a points system - has led to a halving of the number of road deaths in July compared to the same month last year.

Photo: CTK
For years Czech roads suffered one of the worst reputations in Europe - with a high number of road accidents and related fatalities. It was with a view to markedly improve the situation that new legislation was introduced in July: already there is every indication the change has paid off. Marcela Zizkova is the spokeswoman for the Transport Ministry:

"We didn't expect that the drop in the number of deaths and traffic accidents as well as related injuries would be so dramatic: the numbers are fairly positive, showing that while throughout all of July 60 people died on Czech roads, the number is almost fifty percent less than during the same period last year. The number of alcohol-related accidents also dropped. We were pleasantly surprised at the impact. When the legislation was being prepared our aim was to meet the EU initiative of lowering the number of road deaths in the Czech Republic by fifty percent. So far that goal has been met and we hope that the trend continues."

Czech roads have seen unprecedented changes - the most visible among them the slowing of traffic in major cities and towns to a maximum fifty kilometres an hour in places - or less. That doesn't mean there aren't discrepancies in how strictly the law has been upheld: it has been reported, for example, that parts of north Bohemia and Moravia have opted for "zero tolerance", while parts of the Czech-Moravian highlands in the south of the country have been more forgiving. That means that in some areas police might tolerate three kilometres over the limit, for example, on a 90 kph road, while elsewhere they might tolerate nine or ten.

Have there been any gripes over the new law? Certainly, one of the most often heard from drivers being that the law needlessly slows traffic in some areas. But, defenders of the bill say that finding a solution is a matter for local towns and officials. Transport Ministry spokeswoman Marcela Zizkova once again:

"There have been some complaints about some 30 or 40 kilometre zones needlessly slowing traffic in some places, but it depends on local conditions. Local traffic signs are [a matter for officials in the area]. Otherwise, I have to say that the response to the new legislation has been more positive than negative. People are happier to feel safer on Czech roads and hopefully we'll see the last of 'road pirates'. The numbers so far are clear and this is what was at stake. Saving lives is what this was all about."