02 August 2006

Czech Road Safety - A Lesson For The UK!

If you've studied the Czech nation you will know that Czechs are famous for their adaptability. Czechs are also renowned for terrible driving and the country is known as the car death capital of Europe. Well, due to some new legislation (and enforcement of it) it appears that the Czechs are adapting their driving for the better.

With some trepidation I drove on the busiest Czech motorway between Prague and Bratislava and back on Monday. In 2002 I had been a passenger on this journey with an American guy who was an OK driver but had rather slow reactions. I had to sleep all the way to avoid frightening myself to death. To my surprise the driving on the roads on Monday was excellent. The speed limit is 130kph (82mph) but only foreign cars seemed to be exceeding 140kph. To say things have changed doesn't begin to describe the transformation in habits.

In the office on Monday I asked my Czech colleagues about my surreal experience. One month ago a new regime came in on the roads in the Czech Republic.

Major offence (e.g. 50kph above speed limit/parking in disabled space!) - Instant loss of driving license and punitive fine
Minor offence (e.g. more than 10kph above speed limit) - 3 points on license and 200Euro fine.

A 200 euro fine is probably equivalent to a £1000 fine in the UK. Former speedsters around the office all admitted that their habits have changed overnight. Apparently, road deaths have halved in this first month of the new regime and suddenly driving on Czech motorways is a pleasure - excellent.

I hope you don't think I'm going to let the UK government off the hook. The current Roads Minister Stephen Ladyman has been caught speeding three times and has a passion for sports cars and powerful motorcycles. Much to the chagrin of EU partners the UK amended new EU regulations to remove certain key road safety measures such as speed limiters. I'm not holding my breath waiting for Ladyman to reply to a letter on this matter. So the next time you hear a Leftie attacking Jeremy Clarkson for being a motorhead tell him/her to have a go at the people responsible for making policy.


Tomáš Jirsa said...

Just a couple of remarks - the law changed the transportation and made a difference between road safety now and then. More lives saved and more carefull drivers. The question is - how long can that prevail and do we have to take all the negatives that go with the law? New rules (far more strict) opened up a huge space for corruption since the number of negative points is limited. Needless to say, the Czech Police (and especially the transportation police) is a synonymum of corruption. The other thing is that the state of government maintained comunications is horrible which applies for the traffic signs as well - creating a lot of confusion. And third of all, majority of numbers favorably changed because of the fact that the new law changed the rules for statistics (for example the old law requested you to report accidents with damage caused over CZK 20 000, now its more than CZ 50 000 - that explains well the 27% decrease in number of accidents). Nice blog btw.

Praguetory said...

TJ - Thanks for the extra detail. I'm making a few assumptions in my post (I'm not that weel informed being new to Czech) - the long and short is that I feel a lot more comfortable about driving in Czech now than I did in 2002. I hope the improvement sticks but we were going from a pretty low base so I am quite optimistic. Come back again TJ,