Coming in the wake of car accidents that killed a Greek-American woman and an American visiting Greece whose organs were donated, tourists are being warned that Greek roads aren't safe, among the deadliest in the European Union because motor vehicle laws are often ignored.
Greece also has the highest rate of motorcycle fatalities in the 28-country bloc as drivers aren't forced to wear helmets and frequently weave in-and-out of high-speed traffic and bust through red lights and warning signs without being stopped.
A recent report detailing how unsafe it is for tourists to drive in Greece noted the lax laws and lack of enforcement, which the new New Democracy government has vowed to change, bringing a recent crackdown that saw scores of motorists cited for violations.
“Greece presents two contrasting pictures,” Evangelos Bellos, the report’s lead author, told Forbes. It’s a prime tourism destination, hosting almost 30 million tourists per year, “and one of the worst performing countries in terms of road safety” in the EU.
He is Vice-President of Make Roads Safe Hellas, a non-profit based in Athens, Greece, and a senior researcher at the National Technical University of Athens, whose group has focused on improving the country's notoriously bad reputation for vehicle accidents and deaths on the road.
The study found that almost one in five visitors to Greece experienced a serious safety incident on the roads, said the magazine, especially not staying in lanes, speeding and dangerous overtaking followed by violating red lights and driving while under the influence of alcohol.
Of the tourists who drove in Greece, two in five admitted to feeling less inclined to follow traffic rules while on holiday, and one in eight admitted to driving while under the influence of alcohol. This number increased to one in five for drivers under the age of 25.
Some 60 percent tourists surveyed reported dissatisfaction with the road safety conditions in Greece although the national road from Athens to the western city of Patra, a path so dangerous it had been called death's highway, has made driving between the two cities safer.
The report, with a goal to raise awareness by putting the spotlight on the importance of road safety and responsible travel and tourism locally, nationally and globally, was based on a survey of nearly 1,500 international tourists visiting Athens, Chania, and Thessaloniki in 2018.
The report noted that tourists are out of their comfort zone in other countries generally because they are unfamiliar with the roads and laws and the behavior of others, can be disoriented, distracted and tired too, driving up the risk of an accident.
“International Tourism and Road Safety in Greece: Findings of research on tourists’ perceptions of road safety in Greece,” was released earlier this year at the Sixth Global Meeting of the Global Alliance of NGOs for Road Safety in Chania, Crete.
It was a collaboration between Make Roads Safe Hellas, the National Technical University of Athens, the University of Macedonia, the University of the Aegean, the Hellenic Open University and the Eastern Alliance for Safe and Sustainable Transport (EASST) all working together.