Eight out of 10 Greek drivers break the road rules and for many the speed limit is a mere abstraction

Eight in 10 young drivers exceed the speed limit of 120 kilometers per hour on freeways and half of them regularly exceed 140 km/h. For far too many drivers, the speed limit is a mere abstraction. Road accidents and fines don’t discourage them, as most drivers feel safe breaking the speed limit. These are among the findings of a survey conducted by the Transport Engineering Laboratory at the National Technical University of Athens on behalf of the Public Works Ministry. Researchers questioned 500 drivers of cars, trucks and tow-trucks at five stops on the Patras-Athens-Thessaloniki national highway. Most exceed the speed limit: 82 percent of tow-trucks exceeded the limit (70 km/h), 56 percent of car drivers (120 km/h) and 42 percent of truckdrivers (80 km/h). The average speed for passenger vehicles was 131 km/h, trucks 84 km/h and tow-trucks 80 km/h. The survey showed clearly that most young drivers (aged 18-24) drive dangerously: 78 percent exceed 120 km/h, and 41 percent exceed 140 km/h. By contrast, young truckdrivers are more sensible. On average they exceed the speed limit by only 1 km/h and drive more slowly than their elders. Car drivers aged 65 and over (7 percent of the sample), drive below the speed limit, at 110 km/h. Alarmingly, the survey shows that tickets and fines are no deterrent. The average speed of car drivers who have been fined is about the same as those who have never been fined (139 km/h and 128 km/h, respectively), and the figures are similar for truckdrivers. The researchers attribute this mainly to «fragmentary policing;» drivers who have been fined assume «that they have little chance of it happening again.» Similarly, Greek drivers seem unaffected by accidents they have had in the past. The survey notes that car drivers who have been involved in accidents in the past five years admit to driving as fast (average 131.8 km/h) as those who haven’t (average 131.1 km/h). The difference is also minimal for truckdrivers; those who had had an accident in the past five years drive 6 km/h faster than those who haven’t. In a hurry As for why they speed, 43 percent of car drivers said they «were in a hurry;» 31 percent believe they can drive as safely at high speeds; and 5 percent speed because they are bored or for fun. The average speed of drivers who gave this last answer was 150 km/h. The majority of drivers (65 percent) believe the 120 km/h speed limit is too low and should be raised. In fact 23 percent of truckdrivers and 26 percent of tow-truck drivers believe the speed limit is wrong and that they themselves are the best judge of what speed to drive at. Two-year licenses for young drivers? The researchers believe that the speed limit should be raised by 10 km/h. «We favor raising the speed limit from 120 km/h to 130 km/h and the introduction of a maximum speed limit of 110 km/h when it is raining,» Vassilis Psarianos, head of NTUA’s Transport Engineering Laboratory, told Kathimerini. He explained that current speed limits are out of date and drivers don’t abide by them. «An increase of 10 km/h won’t decrease safety levels and it will lessen the number of infringements. This measure has to be accompanied by better policing.» They survey also recommends a limited driver’s license for young drivers (up to 26). «It would be a two-year license and there would be zero tolerance for breaking any rules related to road safety. If, during the two-year period, the driver goes through a red light, he would lose his license and would have to go through the whole process of applying for another one from the start.»