Play­ing with lives on our roads

Kathimerini English - - Front Page - BY NIKOS KONSTANDARAS

A few nights ago, I was about to step off the side­walk to cross the road out­side my home when a car hur­tled past me. I was star­tled – not be­cause I was more dis­tracted than usual but be­cause the ve­hi­cle was speed­ing il­le­gally up a one-way street. I caught a glimpse of young peo­ple inside. They may have been laugh­ing. I don’t know if they even saw me. I felt de­spair and anger. If I had got there a few sec­onds ear­lier, I would have looked left and seen that noth­ing was com­ing. It was very late, per­haps I would not have ex­pected any­thing to come from the right, and I may not have looked that way be­fore step­ping into the ve­hi­cle’s path. Also, if a car had turned from the small side street into the main road, the two ve­hi­cles would have col­lided head-on, as there was no space for the speed­ing one to stop or swerve. The road is nar­row but rel­a­tively busy. That’s why it is a oneway street. Late at night there are usu­ally no chil­dren or old peo­ple about, but such il­le­gal be­hav­ior is dan­ger­ous at any mo­ment of the day. Each year we grow ac­cus­tomed to ever more out­ra­geous be­hav­ior. For years we have tol­er­ated mo­tor­cy­cles driv­ing or park­ing on side­walks, then they be­gan to drive against traf­fic on one-way streets. Ad­her­ing to the traf­fic code and obey­ing signs and traf­fic lights ap­pears to be a purely vol­un­tary ex­er­cise for many mo­tor­cy­clists. Now the ill­ness of traf­fic in­sub­or­di­na­tion has spread to car driv­ers. More and more, they drive up one-way streets. The traf­fic po­lice fig­ures are not par­tic­u­larly help­ful: Al­though they list “driv­ing into on­com­ing traf­fic” as a prin­ci­pal cause of deaths (cost­ing the lives of 63 of the 789 killed in Greece in 2015), this con­cerns two-way roads. “Driv­ing the wrong way on a one-way street” is lost in the cat­e­gory “Other Vi­o­la­tions.” It is clear we are see­ing more traf­fic vi­o­la­tions on our roads and side­walks even if it is hard to prove with statis­tics. To­day there are fewer ve­hi­cles on the road than at the start of the eco­nomic cri­sis, so it is nat­u­ral the num­ber of deaths will have dropped. In 2007, for ex­am­ple, 1,449 peo­ple died on our roads. Polic­ing, too, is a vari­able, so we can­not draw firm con­clu­sions as to whether vi­o­la­tions have in­creased, nor their pos­si­ble causes. What sta- tis­tics do show is that apart from dif­fi­cult traf­fic con­di­tions (such as inadequate road signs, worn sur­faces, and so on, which caused six deaths in 2015), dan­gers on our roads are mainly the fault of bad driv­ers, much of this stem­ming from a lack of dis­ci­pline. And this prob­lem does not seem to be go­ing away. The in­abil­ity of so many of us to obey rules in­tended for the safety of all re­veals in­dif­fer­ence to our own lives and those of oth­ers, cyn­i­cism, ag­gres­sion and a per­haps jus­ti­fied sense of im­punity (ex­cept, of course, when we blame our “bad luck” when things go wrong). Such be­hav­ior, which can be blamed for so many ills, was not im­posed on us by for­eign oc­cu­piers, nor by cred­i­tors, nor by any mem­o­ran­dum.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Greece

© PressReader. All rights reserved.