NEWS

Road safety drive paying off

A high-profile campaign to radically improve Greece’s dismal road safety record has paid off to considerable effect so far, according to traffic police data released yesterday. From the beginning of January to the end of August, road accidents fell 15.7 percent compared to the first eight months of 2001. Traffic police said 175 fewer people were killed since the beginning of the year in 2002, compared to 2001. The total number of road deaths in the first eight months of 2002 was 1,126 (in 985 deadly accidents), over 1,301 deaths in 1,163 accidents from January to August 2001. The number of accidents causing serious injuries fell slightly more, totaling 1,405 this year, with 1,790 people seriously hurt. For years, Greece has had the worst road death toll in the European Union, prompting several short-lived campaigns to improve the way Greeks drive. Now, according to Public Order Ministry officials, the latest drive – a five-year program called En Route that kicked off last year – is responsible for a decline in accidents in excess of target figures. Traffic police have stepped up patrols of highways and city avenues with a high rate of accidents, while simultaneously mounting a determined campaign to catch and fine dangerous drivers – or just motorists who refuse to wear seat belts or motorcycle crash helmets. In the first eight months of this year, there was a 13.9-percent increase in breathalyzer checks compared to January-August 2001. But 7.7 percent fewer drivers were caught inebriated, a sign that warnings against drunk-driving have begun to sink in. On the other hand, the seat belt and crash helmet campaign resulted in a 76-percent increase in fines for not using seat belts and a 60-percent rise in certified helmet offenses.