Road accidents

It is common knowledge that being first on the list depends on many factors. It is the same with Greece’s top position regarding road accidents among its European Union partners. Yesterday’s press reports said that the authorities (have once again) broken a huge racket which issued illegal drivers’ licenses which, in turn, were sent to the new and untested drivers through the mail. Furthermore, of the 2,140 commercial trucks that were inspected on the national highway, more than 50 percent were found to be guilty of a number of dangerous violations. A study conducted by the Technical University of Crete recently showed that one in three car accidents involves commercial cars and trucks. According to the same survey, one in 10 truck drivers admits to having fallen asleep on the road. (The actual percentage is, of course, higher, as many drivers probably didn’t awake again – and sadly, they’re not the only ones, but one must include the numerous unsuspecting victims who happened to be in their way). On top of these figures, one could add the large percentage of intoxicated drivers, the – rather common – speed limit violations, the shady work done on the road network and so on. In all Western states, traffic control takes place in a constant and coordinated fashion. Its principal goal is to educate drivers and make sure that they comply with the traffic regulations. This is because the state’s right to impose law goes hand in hand with its obligation to monitor and implement these laws. In Greece, traffic control lacks coordination; it is sporadic and based on the element of surprise. The police authorities give the impression that they have implemented the law in order to punish the wrongdoers and not in order to correct them. Control is not preventive but repressive. It is indicative of the situation that instead of increasing the number of checks, the traffic police is, instead, raising the fines and penalties. In effect, the driver tends to view the traffic policeman as predominantly a persecutor, rather than as a supervisor of proper road safety. This flawed form of monitoring has distorted our conscience as drivers. Here is a simple example: In the USA but also in Western Europe, drivers stop traffic policemen to indicate the violations of other drivers. In Greece, when we notice a block by the traffic police, we flash our headlights to warn other drivers to slow down.

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