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Politics

Mitsotakis Brings Plan to Cut Greek Traffic Deaths, Accidents

February 4, 2021

ATHENS – Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis wants to make Greece’s dangerous roads safer and hold down the number of deaths and accidents, presenting a National National Action Plan for Improved Road Safety.

The 450-million-euro ($539.82) program will be funded by the European Investment Bank and is aimed at improving more than 7,000 risky spots around the country.

“These are small changes that could, however, make the difference between life and death,” Mitsotakis said, reported Kathimerini about the presentation, which included driver education for the young, in schools.

“Children also affect the behavior of adults,” he said, stressing the need for a change in the culture of driving, and to make changes in the driving test system in which it’s not uncommon for bribes in return for a license.

“Many accidents… are the result of individual choices, such as consumption of alcohol, excessive speed and the fact that we don’t wear a seatbelt or helmet. Above all, we must think that changing our behavior on the road means respect for our fellow citizens and our family,” he added.

In April, 2020, Greece's record showed that in 2019 when traffic police said they issued 492,338 violations and the number of accidents rose, although fatalities fell, the data showed.

The Hellenic Police (ELAS) said of the violations that almost half – 234,169 were for speeding, a common problem in the country where traffic laws are often disregarded and violators sometimes confront police trying to cite them.

Another 52,089 were for motorcyclists without helmets although almost none wear them and drive without being cited. Some 50,456 were for motorists driving without a license, 34,594 for not using seatbelts and 31,557 for driving drunk.

Accidents rose by 1.6 percent in 2019 compared to 2018, with 9,525 nationwide. Of these, 665 resulted in death or serious injury, down by 8.5 percent from 2018, said Kathimerini in a report.

Total fatalities dropped slightly to 701 in 2019 from 708 in 2018 and there were 642 serious injuries down from 701 in 2018. Of the 2019 reported 665 serious accidents, 155 involved a motorist hitting a pedestrian.

In September, 2019, after a Greek-American woman was killed in a car accident and an American visiting Greece whose organs were donated after another, tourists were 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 report then showing how unsafe it is for tourists to drive in Greece noted the lax laws and lack of enforcement, which the New Democracy government has vowed to change, bringing a 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 focused on improving the country’s bad reputation for vehicle accidents and road deaths too.

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.

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