OPINION

End of the road for Greece’s highways

The news that Greece has one of Europe’s most dangerous road networks is, unfortunately, old news. But a press conference held yesterday by the road safety observatory of the Technical Chamber (TEE) showed that the reality is in fact even gloomier than that. In 2001, Greece ranked at the bottom of road safety tables among the old 15 EU members, meaning it had the highest mortality rates from road accidents. Now Greece occupies last place on the table among the present EU25. Greece’s Technical Chamber estimates that even if all the measures announced by the various governments in the past were implemented successfully, Greece would still fall short of the road safety standards of the more developed European nations. The primary cause of the scourge is the poor condition of Greek roads. Most Greeks have personal experience with this, but it is still shocking to hear TEE, the competent authority of Greek engineers, charging that the country is so sorely lacking in road regulations and standards that project studies and their construction are often deficient. «Intersections designed for the regions, prefectures and municipalities are not just wrong, but in many cases are dangerous as well,» the observatory report said. Bad construction, however, is not the only problem. Poor maintenance and the absence of any effective classification system to ensure the proper function of the country’s roads and highways are also responsible for the grim picture. Nearly 20,000 people were killed in road accidents between 1991 and 2001. During that decade the state spent mammoth sums on expanding and upgrading Greece’s roads. The TEE report reveals a double crime: both against the thousands of casualties as well as against the national economy. The state must finally take action to ensure that all that money is put toward a genuinely modern road network.