Green light for safer roads

The government is determined to push ahead with measures to make public transport more attractive and reduce traffic accidents, which cost the country about 8 billion euros annually, two ministers said yesterday. Transport Minister Michalis Liapis and Public Order Minister Vyron Polydoras said in a joint press conference that electronic cards will be introduced for car registrations, while the penalty point system will also be activated and electronically upgraded. No time frame was given for when the steps may be implemented. The two ministers stressed that «the comfortable and secure transportation of people is a top priority as Greece is in the sad position of occupying the top position in the EU regarding road deaths.» In 2005, 1,614 people were killed on Greek roads. Targets, however, set by the European Commission aim to slash the death toll by about half in 2010 to 900 people. Polydoras hit back at critics who have called the soon-to-be-introduced stricter traffic penalties a means of earning the state extra money. «We hope that they (the new measures) fail in terms of revenue earnings because that would mean that the huge target of meeting road safety has been achieved,» he said. In a draft bill being prepared by the Transport Ministry, motorists caught running a red light will be hit with a 700 euro fine as opposed to the current 167 euro penalty. In a bid to help speed up Athens buses, Liapis repeated that the policing of bus lanes will become stricter. Data presented by the Technical Chamber of Greece and the National First Aid Center (EKAB) yesterday showed that traffic accidents cost 8 billion euros in the medical treatment of those injured and welfare services for those disabled in the accident. It was not clear whether the figure also includes the lost productivity caused by the accidents. EKAB representatives said that they receive about 10,000 to 11,000 calls of help per day in Athens but only 10 percent of these calls require the services of an ambulance.