NEWS

Motorists perish on the killing fields of Greece

THESSALONIKI – Greece maintains the worst record of road safety in the European Union, in spite of the improving statistics over the past two years. During the period 1980-2000, Greece is the only EU country in the 15-member bloc which shows a tragic major increase of road deaths (51 percent), when all other European countries have reported sharp declines ranging from 16 to 48 percent. Over the past two years, though, new radical measures have been implemented, including stricter policing of roads and construction to improve the road network. The results are encouraging; there appears to be a decline of road accidents, noted Deputy Transport Minister Spyros Vouyias on Thursday. The minister was speaking at the presentation of the Strategic Plan 2001-2005 that aims at improving road safety in Greece, and which aims to reduce road accidents by 20-25 percent. According to the minister, who was in Thessaloniki for the presentation, last year there was a recorded 5 percent decrease. This year the decline is between 7 to 8 percent and if the measures that have been implemented for the holidays are effective, for the first time in many years the annual number of dead from road accidents may be less than 2,000. The director of the Department of Transportation at the National Technical University of Athens, G. Kanellaidis, who presented the plan, stressed that so far there are no visible signs of improvement in the programs which require the active participation of four ministries. He stressed, though, that it is a coordinated and comprehensive effort, the first at this level. Analyzing the problems of road safety in urban areas, professor Magda Pitsiava of the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki noted that 73 percent of road accidents occur in urban areas, and that efforts should concentrate on those areas, especially given the fact that one third of those involve cars running into pedestrians – often with fatal results. The professor declared that a number of measures can be implemented while others can be enforced in a stricter fashion, such as maintaining or reducing the speed limit in urban centers, while the widening of sidewalks – implemented under a pilot program in Katerini and Larissa – has proven to enhance the safety of pedestrians. According to Thessaloniki Traffic Police records, presented by Thessaloniki police director general N. Tzatzakis, the reports this year are encouraging and mainly result from stricter enforcement of traffic regulations. The number of traffic accidents in the Thessaloniki prefecture in 2000 and 2001 have seen a decline of 10.5 percent, and a 10.3 percent drop in the number of victims (dead, seriously injured, and slightly hurt). Prosecutors protest. Athens prosecutors met yesterday to discuss what they regard as the government’s interference in the functioning of the prosecution system. They said the intervention of any authority outside the legal system threatened the proper course of justice.