NEWS

Police crack the whip at pedestrians, motorcyclists and car drivers, aiming at a further reduction of fatal accidents on Greece’s roads

The considerable reduction in the number of fatal road accidents (by 25.3 percent in the first nine months of 2002 in relation to the same period in 2001) and the number of fatalities (down by 22.7 percent) puts Greece in a particularly favorable position in European rankings. According to estimates by the head of the Attica Traffic Police, Brigadier Constantine Tzekis, the results up to now suggest that by the end of the year, the ratio of deaths in road accidents to the population will have reached eight per 100,000, one of the lowest in Europe. Indicatively, in Greece as a whole, there were 20 deaths per 100,000 inhabitants in 1999. Comparisons Corresponding ratios for other member states of the European Union include 13 in Austria, 14 in Belgium, 10 in Denmark, eight in Finland, 14 in France, nine in Germany, 11 in Ireland, 11 in Italy, 14 in Luxembourg, seven in the Netherlands, 21 in Portugal, and 15 in Spain. The safest roads in the EU were in Sweden, with seven fatalities per 100,000, and just six in Britain. Since then, Greece has shown the steepest drop in fatal accidents, winning plaudits from many European countries, as Tzekis told Kathimerini, while Cyprus, with 15 fatalities per 100,000, has asked for help in its efforts to reduce this figure. One of the most important factors contributing to the improvement in traffic circulation and the reduction in the accident and fatalities rate has been the mobilization of the traffic police. During the first 21 days of October, 4,784 traffic police officers were on hand in Attica to oversee traffic, as against 3,642 last year, an increase of 31.36 percent. In the first 21 days of the month, 44,307 breaches of the traffic code were confirmed, as against 31,848 during the same period last year. Common offenses The most frequent violations of the traffic code, according to traffic police statistics, were non-use of helmets (5,089), non-use of seat belts (3,690), speeding (3,653), and running red lights (2,016). During the same period, 5,871 vehicle number plates and 1,017 driving licenses were sequestered. Overall, 274 drivers were deprived of their driving licenses. In addition, 13,567 alcohol tests were carried out and signs of inebriation detected in 601 drivers. Traffic policing measures on traffic flow and passenger safety that have been implemented recently have been judged particularly effective. For example, CCTV cameras placed along main avenues and arteries have acted to deter the great majority of car drivers from driving along bus lanes. Despite this initiative, 6,948 summonses were sent, accompanied by the photograph that recorded the violation. The presentation of such visual evidence to lawbreakers tends to brook no dispute. Apart from increased checks on seat-belt use, one more measure, which initially sparked fierce reactions, was implemented: wheel clamps on motorcycles whose riders were riding without a helmet. The measure was deemed necessary because riders showed no signs of conforming with the regulations. Since July, when it was first brought in, until recently, 53,907 vehicles have been checked, 24,086 breaches noted and 5,269 motorcycles and 2,987 mopeds clamped. Cranes were used to remove 324 vehicles, while 52 infringements of noise levels were noted. Apart from dealing with traffic violations and smooth traffic flow, particular emphasis is laid by the police on some of the main principles of driver education. The traffic police have thus produced a series of leaflets which inform drivers of dangerous violations and give practical advice on what they should be careful about while on the road. In cooperation with teachers, children are taught proper road sense and how to become good drivers when they grow up. Places to avoid According to the Public Works Ministry, these are the places to avoid: Kifissias Avenue: Work on flyovers at Psychico (Faros) and Paradeisos, Maroussi, will continue until early 2004. Marathonas Avenue: Work on widening the road between Stavros and the Attiki Odos will be complete by the end of this year, and between Attiki Odos and Marathon by early 2004. Vari-Koropi road: By early 2004, work should be complete on widening the road. Kifissou Avenue: Flyover at the intersection with Poseidonos Avenue will be ready by early 2004. OAKA (Olympic Stadium): Intersection of Kymi and Spyrou Loui avenues and road link between Kymi and Nerantziotissis avenues. Poseidonos Avenue: Construction of interchange at intersection with Alimou Avenue in progress, along with Metro extension requiring gradual changes to traffic flow where necessary. Winter woes A driver information campaign is to get under way this month to try to prevent some of the problems that occur in winter months. Traffic police will be giving instructions on the proper replacement of worn-out tires, and the maintenance or repair of windshield wipers and car heating systems. The campaign, to continue until Christmas, is considered necessary after last year’s winter weather in Attica, which was worse than in previous years and resulted in many breakdowns of cars that had not been properly serviced.