ATHENS – With Greek drivers known for running red lights, speeding and ignoring traffic laws, former race car champion driver Tasos Markouizos said an estimated 120,000 people have died on Greece’s roads in the past 50 years and that accidents “are wiping out the Greek race.”
In an interview with the state news Athens-Macedonian News Agency (ANA) he said another 350,000 were disabled by traffic accidents and more than 2 million have been injured, although there was no independent verification for the claims.
He likened the numbers of deaths and disabilities to “genocide” affecting a whole race of people and said there should be better driver education, starting in elementary school as a way to wean Greeks off believing they can disobey traffic laws, with few police checks seen on the roads.
Markouizos – founder of the road safety organization Iaveris, named after the 19th Century “consummate legalist” in Victor Hugo’s Les Miserables, Javert – said the new New Democracy government should start road safety programs for children.
“Kids need to be taught how to drive correctly. Greece’s roads are not the best and they need to learn how to drive in these conditions,” he said. “Every day we mourn three or four deaths and as many people are left disabled. How much bigger does the problem need to become before the authorities take it seriously?”
He said that Greeks’ lack of road education and defiance of the law is apparent at almost every traffic light. “Instead of stopping when the light turns orange, most Greeks step on the gas,” he said. “Consistency, patience and caution are the traits that need to define the behavior of every motorist.”
As of 2016, the last year for which statistics were available, the World Health Organization said there were 9.2 road fatalities for every 100,000 inhabitants in Greece but seven countries in Europe were worse: Albania, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Lithuania, North Macedonia, Montenegro, Poland and the highest, Russia, at 18.9, more than twice Greece’s very bad record.