ATHENS – Driving in Greece can often be a case of taking your life in your hands because of people speeding, breaking through red lights and committing violations but the number of traffic fatalities dropped 52 percent from 2007-17.
Despite the improvement, Greece still ranks only 23d among the European Union’s 28 countries in road safety for deaths, it was reported at the American College of Greece’s Institute of Public Health conference here, the state-run Athens News Agency reported, showing danger remains.
The annual cost of traffic accidents resulting from deaths, injuries and material damage comes to more than 3 billion euros ($3.4 billion) the report added.
Experts at the event said the country’s economic crisis has contributed to reducing road accidents and deaths because so many people took their cars off the roads, unable to afford road circulation passes, insurance and fuel costs, and that better roads had helped.
But they added that continued safety education is key to continuing to reduce the accidents and deaths because 65-95 percent of crashes are due to driver error and behavior, with speeding and reckless driving, particularly among the young.
Citing data from the Hellenic Statistical Authority (ELSTAST), a Professor Emeritus of Medicine, Georgios Baltopoulos, said that 944 road accidents were recorded from the start of the year until August, with 4 percent resulting in the loss of life and 7 percent in serious injury.
Most accidents were caused by speeding, aggressive driving, not using helmets or safety belts, drunk driving and using cellphones while operating a vehicle, said the news agency report.
The head of the National Technical University of Athens’s Department of Transportation Planning and Engineering, George Yannis, said driving only one kilometer an hour over the speed limit increases the chance of an accident by 3 percent.
The safety belt, he said, reduces the risk of death of the driver by 40-65 percent and of back-seat passengers by 25-75 percent, yet just 19 percent of back-seat passengers in Greece use them with enforcement also lax.
In 2017, the Traffic Police recorded 32,500 safety belts violations and 876 violations concerning the use of baby car seats. Some 60,142 motorcycle drivers and passengers were caught without a helmet, even though its use can reduce the possibility of fatal injury by more than 40 percent although the law requires only the motorcyclists carry a helmet but not wear it.