Road deaths drop 52 pct in Greece, but country still among EU’s laggards

Road deaths drop 52 pct in Greece, but country still among EU’s laggards

The number of road deaths in Greece dropped by 52 percent in the 10-year-period from 2007 to 2017, yet the country still finds itself in 23rd place among the European Union's 28 member states on the road deaths list, a recent health conference in Athens has heard.

Meanwhile, the annual cost of traffic accidents resulting from deaths, injuries and material damage comes to more than 3 billion euros, the conference held by the American College of Greece's Institute of Public Health also heard, according to the Athens-Macedonian news agency.

Experts at the event noted that the economic crisis has played an instrumental role in curbing road accidents by limiting the number of vehicles in circulation and compelling motorists to drive more cautiously. Improvements to the quality of the road network is another contributing factor.

They stressed, however, that a more safety minded mentality is the key to reducing traffic accidents, as 65 to 95 percent of such incidents can be traced directly back to drivers' behavior.

Citing data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAST), a professor emeritus of medicine, Georgios Baltopoulos, said that 944 road accidents were recorded from the start of the year until August, with 4 percent resulting in the loss of life and 7 percent in serious injury. The year does not bode well, he said, as the number of accidents for all of 2016 came to 1,022, with 7 percent resulting in a fatality and 9 percent in critical injuries.

Excessive speed, aggressive driving, lax use of helmets and safety belts, particularly by passengers, driving under the influence of alcohol and using cellphones while at the wheel are the leading causes of traffic accidents in Greece, according to the ANA-MPA report.

The head of the National Technical University of Athens's Department of Transportation Planning and Engineering, George Yannis, stressed the importance of driving at or under the speed limit, explaining how an increase in speed of just 1 kilometer per hour ups the chances of an accident by 3 percent.

On the issue of safety belts, Yannis said 2,700 lives could be saved in the European Union every year if drivers and passengers were more conscientious about their use. The safety belt, he said, reduces the risk of death of the driver by 40-65 percent and of back-seat passengers by 25-75 percent, yet just 19 percent of back-seat passengers in Greece belt up.

In 2017, the Traffic Police recorded 32,500 safety belts violations and 876 violations concerning the use of baby car seats. At the same time, 60,142 motorcycle drivers and passengers were caught without a helmet, even though its use can reduce the possibility of fatal injury by more than 40 percent, the ANA-MPA said.

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