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Slovakia fails to reduce death tolls on the roads

THE NUMBER of people killed on Slovak roads rose for the second year in a row in 2007, dimming hope that the country will meet its goal of halving the number of road fatalities by 2010.

THE NUMBER of people killed on Slovak roads rose for the second year in a row in 2007, dimming hope that the country will meet its goal of halving the number of road fatalities by 2010.

Last year, 627 people were killed in collisions on Slovak roads, the Pravda daily wrote. Preliminary police statistics show that even though the number of car accidents is decreasing, the consequences are worse.

Juraj Smrečan, the head of the Slovak Central Auto Club, described the numbers simply: “Catastrophe, a huge exclamation mark,” he told the daily. “It would be impossible to call such a high number of casualties anything else. It is again an unbelievable and incomprehensible increase.”

Two years ago, there was hope that Slovakia would manage to reverse the negative trend. In 2005, for the first time in 13 years, the number of fatal road collisions fell below 600. But the number increased in 2006, and in 2007 it rose above 600 again.

The biggest increase in casualties is among pedestrians and cyclists, Viktor Plézel from the police presidium told the daily.

“The growing number of casualties is a trend in almost all of Europe,” he said. “The death toll rose not only in Central Europe, but also in Western Europe.”

In 2002, Slovakia pledged to cut its number of road accidents in half by 2010, to below 305. Transportation Research Institute experts predict that Slovakia will not meet its promise, and they say the situation in other countries is similar. In the neighbouring Czech Republic, whose population is double that of Slovakia, there were 1,111 fatal collisions last year - 155 more than in 2006.

Even a new system that penalises drivers for violating road rules, introduced in the Czech Republic in 2006, did not help to reverse the trend.

Smrečan said the state is not dealing with transportation safety thoroughly enough. There is no consistent traffic education for children and society is not paying enough attention to road safety, he said.

“Drivers pay for a huge excise tax on motor fuels, compulsory insurance, highway stickers, and businessmen pay taxes on motor vehicles, but they are getting almost nothing in return,” he said.

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