Death on the road: Absence of road safety education in Greece
Translated by Louiza Parnou
Based on the original article in Greek by Μάριος Κωστόπουλος
Death on the road: Education for Road Safety in Greece; Words unknown, because the incidents show that there is neither education nor interest for the basic rules of Traffic Regulations. You need no code as not to exceed speed limit, not to drive tired, furious and frustrated, not to mention drunk and put other people’s lives at risk. You must not drive on the sidewalk, avoid illegal overtaking and you must not stop or park your car on the zebra crossing. Furthermore, you must not talk on the phone while driving, you must not ignore the stop signs and without a shadow of doubt you must fasten your seatbelt or put on your helmet. All the above rules are part of the Traffic Regulations and the contraventions of it, depending on their range, are supposed to be punished. This does not seem to bother the vast majority of people as the fatal results are profound.
Even if we try to beat about the bush, numbers never lie. First of all, Greece ranks 3rd among other European countries with the highest numbers of fatalities from road accidents. Romania ranks 1st and Lithuania comes in the 2nd place. In the last 50 years (till 2015) there were 120,000 deaths, 350,000 disabled people and 2,000,000 casualties due to road accidents. How outrageous is this! These are the officially recorded numbers. In our country, especially in rural places, people are used to sorting things out by themselves when it comes to road accidents without calling the police for meticulous investigation . It works like an unwritten law.
According to Eurostat, 8 out of 13 regional units of Greece rank among the 20 countries of European Union’s list of areas with a highest number of fatalities from road accidents, whereas 7 out of 13 are in the top 10 places. An indicative example, is the region of southern Aegean as it ranked first, whereas one year later the region of Ionian islands, central and west Greece were jousting for the 1st place. Last but not least, the regions of Peloponnese and Epirus were following closely. Attica consists another important category with its large avenues, the exuberant nightlife, the illegal street racing in a lot of areas and the fast cars. The wealthier you are, the better car you get and, trust me, there are a lot of suburbs that are still home to rich people, no matter the financial crisis. Meanwhile in the Greek islands during the summer holidays, a lot of fatal accidents occur as well. None or limited traffic signs, the local people who think they know the roads of their area like the palm of their hand and the drunk tourists driving rental cars, are some of the factors that lead to deadly road accidents. Whoever has been on holiday in Greece is informed that everyone can rent a vehicle, only by paying the certain amount of the money agreed.
For the first six months of 2017, according to official statistics of the police, 317 deaths happened, there were 306 badly injured and 5,635 slightly injured people irrespective of their age group. Although the above results about death on the road are very disappointing, year by year there has been a steady reduction in road deaths across the country. However, this is due to the financial crisis that had a great effect on Greece. From 2003 to 2007 deaths were about 1,640 people, but in 2008 this number was reduced in 1,553 dead people and in 2015 reached the number of 793 because of the diminished car use by the citizens. If we believe that the improvement of the road network led to the decrease of deaths, then we turn a blind eye. If not on a big, wide, smooth road then where should we try our car’s strengths?
As we understand, the constant observation of the proceedings through statistics is difficult to follow. However, there are lots of shocking numbers about death on the road that even if they are results of 2015, they do not differ from today’s numbers, if we take the situation into careful consideration. Most of deaths happened to people of 55 and over and they reached the 291 deaths consisting the 30% of the overall dead people. Aggressive driving, tiredness and “extreme” safety are the main causes of death, not to mention that 50% of the cases were under alcohol or drug influence and are the first cause of death for ages 15 to 29. Among the ages 5 to 14 is the second cause of death and the third cause among the ages 30-44. That means that it is more likely for a parent who drives with his child inside or on the vehicle, to have his child killed. This is unbelievable!
Yes! The Traffic Regulations will become stricter and a lot of people will be punished. I could enumerate the changes here. So what? It is to no avail if they are not put into practice. The main issue is to find out what leads us to such an undisciplined behaviour when driving. Why do you want to vent your anger caused at the workplace, home, even by society, when on the road? Why do you have to take an innocent life in vain, not to mention a pedestrian’s? Well, because the sole purpose in your miserable life is to hit speeds of 250 km on your motorcycle and the only excretion of adrenaline in your system is to copy “The Fast and The Furious” while driving along the seaside on a Saturday, hitting speeds of 150 without taking into consideration anybody else. This is especially true after a crazy Greek night out next to an attractive co-driver that you want to impress; 150 become 200, and suddenly all the red traffic lights fade to green and the rest of the drivers become invisible. Here’s a piece of friendly advice; if the person sitting next to you is impressed by all mentioned above, run as fast as you can but… on foot!
To conclude, I apologize to whoever got up to this point, for the long article and the occasional harsh tone. Some of the statistics could have been omitted, but then again the tragedy of the situation would be distorted. I wish I could write that everything is like a fairy tale, but it would be a lie and such a bleak and delicate issue has to include only the truth. Do not be fooled by the reduction of the death toll; it is only that the financial crisis ruined things for us and we cannot satisfy our vanity as often as we did before. When we are given the chance, results are immediate. Next time you drive your motorbike without putting your helmet on hitting 200 km/h, or upload an Instagram story with a cheesy pop song in the background, remember the following; there is no second life for you, or the one who will be killed by you. Nobody will remember that one Friday you hit speeds of 200 km/h on the National Highway, but your relatives will certainly remember that you died. And that’s all.
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