It takes a deadly traffic accident next door, on the island where we’re vacationing, to remind us of the scale of the tragedy unfolding on the country’s roads every single year. The loss of a 23-year-old man who was coming back from his job at a restaurant on his motorcycle late at night. His death was instantaneous.
Something happened (it is currently being investigated) to make him lose control of the bike and smash into a wall on a turning. He was wearing a helmet, had not been drinking and was known as a cautious driver. His family is now dressed in black. At times, their faces became etched with the unthinkable, frozen in grief. We can hear hushed voices and crying next door; the trees and bushes in the garden cannot keep their grief out.
Like so many summers before, more lives, and usually young ones, have already been lost and will probably still be lost in traffic accidents. According to the data and the experts, traffic accidents wipe the population of a big village off the map every year. In its annual report, the European Transport Safety Council, an independent NGO, observed a significant improvement in road safety in Greece over the past decade, but the number of road deaths continues to be well above the European Union average of 44 per million of the population.
With 56.9 deaths per million residents right now, Greece sits seventh from the bottom in the EU27 rankings. In 2011, the figure was 102.6 per million, so there has indeed been an improvement, but not a big enough one.
The organization’s annual Road Safety Performance Index Award went to Lithuania this year, as it was the only country in the EU that halved road deaths from 2011 to 2021. The country was praised for numerous initiatives to this end, including a long-term national strategy for reducing road deaths entirely by 2050, investing in speeds cameras, and stricter drink-driving rules.
On the narrow and steeply winding roads of the island, which is overflowing with Greek and foreign visitors, I see drivers and riders on motorcycles and quads, without helmets, using their phones – losing all sense of caution in the “carefree” Greek summer vibe. But all it takes is one wrong turn and that’s it. The end. Families destroyed. And articles like this one – too little, too late.