NEWS

Fewer road accidents in ’02

There has been an impressive reduction in the number of traffic accidents and victims, according to official statistics released by the Public Order Ministry. Between January and August 2002, there was a 15.7-percent drop in the number of accidents in Greece compared to the same period the previous year. In actual numbers, this decrease means 178 fewer fatal accidents, 334 fewer serious and 1,608 fewer less serious accidents. There were 175 fewer fatalities, 485 fewer serious injuries and 2,256 fewer slight injuries for the same period. The ministry and traffic police attribute the reduction to specific measures taken within the framework of their «On the Road 2001-2004» program aimed at improving road safety in Greece. So far, the program has surpassed its goals. Implementation was on two levels – the prevention of accidents and harsher penalties for infringement of the law. Dangerous stretches of road were more heavily policed, both on the highways and in the cities, where manpower and technology was distributed as deemed necessary. Spot checks were stepped up, with 13.9 percent more breathalyzer testing teams than the year before, testing 682,224 drivers, compared to 484,817 the year before. However, the percentage of drivers found to be driving under the influence of alcohol dropped by 7.7 percent, indicating that drivers are becoming more careful, whether just to avoid being caught or due to a public awareness campaign. Yet people have still not been heeding warnings about the importance of wearing seat belts. The number of people caught not wearing them went up from 66,816 to 117,781, an increase of 76 percent. Around 60 percent more motorcyclists were caught without helmets, with both these increases the result of stricter policing. Traffic police are continuing to propose further improvements to the system. Further reductions in blood-alcohol limits were announced recently that will apply to taxi and truck drivers, bus and ambulance drivers and all new drivers. The first jay-walking tickets have been issued to pedestrians who cross against the lights or fail to use pedestrian crossings where available, putting their own lives at risk as well as causing accidents. A special plan has been drawn up for Attica to deal with traffic problems likely to arise during the Olympic Games in 2004. And according to sources, the traffic police will soon be working with Greek state radio (ERA) in an ambitious plan to brief drivers on the state of the roads. Information on traffic density, areas where traffic is being diverted and alternate routes will be broadcast 24-hours a day, in a service soon to be put into operation. Private radio stations have also expressed an interest.