OPINION

Deadly delays

The domestic debate about road safety has gained new intensity after the tragic coach crash on the Athens-to-Thessaloniki national highway near Aghios Constantinos where seven pupils met their death. Monday’s accident catapulted onto center stage a number of issues, such as the poor state of the country’s highway network, the inexcusable delays in completing a number of essential road projects, and lax enforcement of the highway code by the responsible state authorities. On top of this, there is, of course, talk about the need to mete out justice and apportion political responsibility for the endless road carnage. It is not a small thing for a country to mourn 2,000 dead, 32,000 injured and 3,500 permanently disabled in road accidents each decade. The procrastination in planning and introducing an efficient transport system and the absence of any serious regional development policy means that Greece is still lacking a comprehensive railway network. As a result, the majority of people and commodities have to travel by road – a fact that increases the risk of accident. Furthermore, many of Greece’s roads are cursed by shoddy construction and poor maintenance. And, as if that were not enough, many drivers’ behavior is a reflection of the negative aspects of the prevailing social culture. The latest bus accident and the tragic deaths of the pupils will soon disappear from newspaper headlines. To be sure, some additional traffic measures will be taken, some new checks will be introduced, and a number of road projects will be announced. But all this will likely fall short of providing any complete remedy for the lack of an up-to-date transport system.