Specialists welcome tough decision in road rage case

Luboš Lacina, photo: CTK

A regional court on Monday handed down one of the toughest sentences ever for dangerous driving in the Czech Republic: five years behind bars. The court found motorist Luboš Lacina guilty of attempted grievous bodily harm when his Skoda Superb forced another car off the road in March. It was only a miracle that no one was killed in the incident.

Luboš Lacina,  photo: CTK
Video footage of Luboš Lacina’s Škoda Superb forcing another vehicle off the D1 highway in March, sending it flying off the road, shocked many in the country and for this reason many observers probably weren’t surprised the court came to a tough decision: five years behind bars, the toughest sentence ever handed down for hazardous driving not ending either in death or permanent injury. Mr Lacina’s defence claimed throughout that the driver had not intended to force the other car off the highway – in short – that the consequences of his actions were an accident. But the court ruled the opposite. On Monday, judge Ivo Zelinka said the defendant’s was accountable for his actions and that they were attempted grievous bodily harm.

The state prosecutor, who had asked for a tough sentence, welcomed the decision saying that it sent a strong message to drivers who obeyed the rules of the road. Presumably the message is far stronger for those who do not. Václav Špička is a well-known road safety specialist:

“Aggressiveness on Czech roads is a very serious problem we’ve been battling since 1989. Some motorists have grown increasingly aggressive with more powerful vehicles and especially the feeling that they are ‘free’ to behave in any way they want. It’s not just cases like Mr Lacina’s on the D1: the failure to respect peoples’ rights also pertains to cyclists and even pedestrians. The problem is that people are often simply not afraid of the consequences. To this degree, Monday’s decision sends a message that decent drivers should not have to be afraid while on the road.”

A study conducted by the Czech technical university last year, where researchers travelled some 10,000 kilometres in the Czech Republic, mapped more than 600 cases of hazardous driving, showing that potentially deadly habits die hard. Speeding, drivers cutting off others, or even veering into oncoming traffic.

According to specialists, revisions in the currents driver’s points system are needed, (such as allowing police greater authority on the spot) as well as stronger repercussions comparable to other EU countries, including Germany. In Václav Špička’s view, licenses there are remanded far more effectively – in some cases permanently – and problematic motorists are forced to retake their license if necessary. In short, the Czech Republic is still behind others in road safety, say many experts, when it comes to tackling the problem. In the Lacina road rage case, meanwhile, the defendant has already appealed.