OPINION

Safer roads

Greece is mourning children killed in a road crash – again. Such accidents are an inexplicable sacrifice and, by all means, an avoidable one. The shortcomings dogging the country’s road network are well known. It is indeed a tragedy that we are in the 21st century and Greece still lacks a modern national highway system in line with the most basic safety standards, such as clear lanes and safe median strips, things that are long considered self-evident in the more advanced European countries. The Patras-Corinth national highway was considered state of the art in the 1970s but these days it is more reminiscent of a provincial road, only more dangerous. The nightmare of the Maliakos Gulf road, where dozens of people meet their death in crashes each year, the bloodstained Asprovalta on the Thessaloniki-Kavala link and other stretches on the national highway, are notoriously dangerous for drivers. The existence of those so-called death traps proves that death by accident is not just a matter of bad luck. It is governments that should be held accountable for the high death toll, as it is they are who are responsible for building safe roads. We hope that this time promises about improving the network will be met. Until then, as a temporary measure, the traffic police should increase their presence along the most precarious points. Intimidating drivers into continuing at lower speeds is a way of averting the worst consequence of government idleness: death. The State should also take stricter action against drivers who violate safety regulations, particularly truckdrivers who are so often the cause of road bloodbaths. The problems here are familiar: overloaded vehicles that refuse to obey the brakes; trucks that move at high speeds and then need a 100-meter-plus braking span; drivers who sit more than 20 hours behind the wheel, not to mention the sense of arrogance caused by the size of their trucks. No doubt the main causes of many fatal accidents are the unacceptable condition of sections of the national highway and the lack of an extended railway system that would facilitate safe transport and reduce the number of commercial trucks on the roads. However, part of the blame lies with our allowing the transfer of pupils without taking additional safety measures and, of course, with our reckless driving behavior. It is no coincidence that countries with modern road infrastructure do not hesitate to sentence dangerous drivers to prison terms.