Even though many drivers might find it hard to believe, the statistics are clear: Czech roads are becoming safer.
In the first three months of this year, 178 people have died on Czech roads, the lowest number since 1990.
“It’s significant that we can now have hundreds more police officers than last year,” says Leoš Tržil, head of traffic police. This change is the result of an amendment, which states that traffic police no longer needs to go to accidents where the damage does not exceed CZK 100,000. The number of accidents has decreased by one half.
But the lower number of victims also has other causes, for instance, the economic crisis. “There are fewer lorries on roads these days, and naturally that affects the number of accidents,” says Václav Špička, of Autoklub ČR.
But it seems that there truly are reasons to be optimistic. Last year was the second year since the Velvet Revolution that the total number of road deaths fell under 1,000, which seems to be the magic number. The most recent statistics also bring two other pieces of good news. The number of serious injuries has also fallen and so has the number of road deaths caused by alcohol intake.
In practice, it could also have to do with renewed zeal last year of the Transport Ministry and of the police to lower the number of accidents.
The police bought not only 16 fast Volkswagens, but also 70 new motorcycles. “These are aimed mainly at motorcyclists and they will go anywhere, where motorcyclists tend to break the rules,” says Tržil.
The ministry also commissioned director Filip Renč to film TV clips that vividly depict traffic accidents and their aftermath. “Based on the feedback we have for this campaign, it seems that drivers really have started being more careful and using safety belts and child seats more,” says Zuzana Ambrožová, head of the Road Safety Department (BESIP).
The ministry is planning another awareness campaign: It wants to organise discussions at schools, with the participation of people whose lives were destroyed as a result of a traffic accident.
The fact is that the number of road deaths has been falling since 2003. Before that, the figures reached more than 1,300 deaths a year, now the number is about 25% lower. “There are several reasons. For instance, the construction of motorways, where the risk of an accident for every new kilometre is lower. Also new cars are safer,” says traffic expert Václav Špička.
The good news notwithstanding, on average, twice as many people die on Czech roads as is the average for western European countries.
The goal to reduce the number of deaths to 650 is still far from being achieved.