NEWS

Here’s why Greeks have so many car accidents

Traffic accidents are so common that road deaths have reached epidemic level, some 800,000 throughout the world every year. And the number is expected to rise to 1 million by 2010 and 1.2 million by 2020. In Greece every year, the equivalent of the population of an entire village dies on the roads, and not only in trips outside the city as the media often suggest, but in the city itself. In over 20,000 road accidents each year, more than 30,000 people are injured and around 2,500 are killed. Injuries from road accidents are the main cause of death among people aged up to 44. Stricter measures by traffic police have only a temporary effect, and the number of accidents usually rises every year by 35 percent while the incidence of fatal injuries rises by 65 percent. We usually put the blame on the road or the car. To a certain extent the former is justified, since Greek roads are generally of poor quality with many hazardous sections which are not repaired in good time. Road signs are inadequate, especially at points where roadworks are under way. There are not enough divided highways; the system of training drivers is flawed and, with licenses being gained mainly through bribery; and there are still many old vehicles on the road. And then there are human failings – speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol, and failing to use seat belts. All perfect Interesting research carried out by the Social Research Department of the Technological Educational Institute on Crete under sociology professor Yiannis Chliaoutakis overturns the conventional explanations for road accidents. Our behavior and the factors which affect it are chiefly responsible for the accidents, according to the study, which supplies striking information about Greek drivers. Nearly all Greek drivers demonstrate exaggerated self-esteem, evaluating their driving ability positively. Nearly all of them, for example, claim to be skillful at overtaking, controlling their vehicle, dealing with unusual road conditions, and believe that they avoid risks and give priority to other drivers. They consider the environment and other drivers entirely responsible for road accidents. A very low percentage mention their own flaws. In other words, Greeks rarely acknowledge that their own behavior and attitude to driving are the chief causes of road accidents. The research confirms international findings and earlier research by Chliaoutakis himself that showed, as he says, «irritation while driving, driving without a specific destination, driving without a seat belt and aggressive driving are types of behavior which can cause traffic accidents.» Aggressive driving Of those sampled, 86 percent sound their horn at other drivers to indicate annoyance; 81 percent are annoyed by other drivers and find some way of showing it; 76 percent drive without seat belts; 64.5 percent drive to put themselves in a good mood; 64 percent drive for no specific purpose or destination; 63 percent do not observe the speed limit on the highway; 60 percent exceed the speed limit on roads in built-up areas; 57 percent miscalculate the speed of the driver coming from the opposite direction when they are overtaking; 51 percent leave the traffic lights first to get ahead of the others; 51 percent brake suddenly on wet roads; and 50 percent drive so close to the car in front that they cannot stop in an emergency. But 99 percent of drivers think that they know how to drive in special circumstances, that they have full control of their vehicle, that they know how to deal with the mistakes of others, that they avoid taking risks while driving, give priority to others so as to avoid accidents, keep a distance from other vehicles and overtake safely. They are quite sure what causes accidents: other drivers who are speeding (99 percent); dangerous overtaking by other drivers (99 percent); shortcomings of other drivers (98 percent); bad road conditions (98 percent); bad weather and lighting (97 percent); other drivers coming too close to them (95 percent) and wrong road signs (89.5 percent). The research reached the following conclusions: Drivers behave in ways that make road accidents likely; they overestimate their driving skills; there is a significant difference between the way they often drive and their driving skills (which they consider to be excellent). Among the most important findings of the research are the following: Those most likely to be involved in a road accident are a) older drivers; b) drivers who exceed the 100 kph speed limit; and c) drivers who do not pay attention to the road (road signs and road surface) or other drivers. Those less likely to get involved in traffic accidents are drivers who adopt a calm approach to life, respect the rules and consume low amounts of alcohol and tobacco. Like many Romanians, she has scant faith in politicians in a society where corruption is a daily fact of life. But of more concern to her, and to West European governments, is the failure of successive administrations to clarify land ownership.