Greece one of the worst countries in Europe for road safety - About 50 people die every month

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Another bicyclist died this morning on Syngrou Avenue in Athens.

The number of people who lose their lives or are seriously injured on the road is increasing. Greece is one of the four worst countries in Europe in terms of road safety, with 635 road traffic deaths per year. This means that every month, around 50 people lose their lives on the road - as if the train accident in Tempi is repeated on a monthly basis, that is.

There are five "killers" on the road: helmet, seat belt, speed, cell phone and alcohol

Greece currently ranks 24th among the 27 member countries of Europe in terms of road safety and the number of deaths per million inhabitants.

"When the European average is 46, in Greece, we have 61 deaths per million inhabitants. This means that we are in one of the four worst positions in Europe," says Dr. Giorgos Giannis, a Transportologist.

"Worse than us are only Croatia, Bulgaria and Romania. The best country is Sweden, with 22 road traffic deaths per million inhabitants - we have three times more deaths than Sweden," added the Professor of the National Technical University of Athens

Two main causes of very dangerous traffic accidents in Greece are the lack of helmets and high speed

According to Dr Giannis, "One in three dead on Greek roads is a motorcyclist. Specifically, dead motorcyclists account for 36% of traffic accidents in Greece, while in the rest of the European countries, it is an average of 18%."

"If you consider that the average number of people killed in traffic accidents in Greece is around 635 every year - as if we were experiencing the Tempi accident every month... - motorcyclists are a little more than 200. The number of victims is very high!"

In particular, regarding the lack of helmets, Dr Giannis states: "In the European Union, helmets are used in the front seat by 95%, in Sweden by 99%. In Greece, the percentage is 80%, and among the riders in the back seat, the percentage of those wearing a helmet drops to 65%. In a study at the Polytechnic, we found that if our country harmonised with European data and 95% of motorcyclists used helmets, we would save 120 deaths. The improvement would be huge."

The other risk factor, high speed, also demonstrates the magnitude of the problem in our country: "In single-vehicle accidents - that is, those that swerve without colliding with another vehicle - due to inappropriate speed, the rate is 50% while in the rest of Europe, it is 40%.

The truth is that speed is underestimated in our country as a danger - we all think that we will 'make it', that 'it's okay'. However, either in the event that the vehicle leaves the road, resulting in the injury or death of the driver and passengers, or in the event that the speed may be 'safe' for the driver because he is wearing a seat belt and driving a good vehicle, the victim can be the non-driver. Especially in the cities, 55% of the dead are pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists, because they were killed by some running vehicles".

Twice the percentage of Greek drivers who talk on their mobile phones – another cause of traffic accidents

"In a recent survey carried out in Greece, 10.5% of drivers talk on their cell phones, while the European average is 5%," he said.

"Differentiation is also noted between residential and non-residential areas.

"In Greece, we have many dead inside populated areas. Motorcyclists, many. Driving behaviour in the city is much worse than on the highways. After all, it has been observed that especially since March 2017, when the road network was doubled, the improvement in terms of the reduction of accidents and deaths on the main road network is enormous. Today, the problem of road safety in Greece is more in the cities".

"In 2022, we had 635 deaths, and 624 in 2021. This year, the rates are similar; generally, fewer victims are recorded in winter and more in summer. We are in about the same bad situation with minor ups and downs, no dramatic changes. The publicity is good because it leads to people's awareness."

Changing the culture through information will definitely help improve the situation. As does better policing.

In fact, regarding insufficient policing, which in turn leads to bad driving behaviour, Dr Giannis points out: "When the police see motorcyclists without helmets and don't write a fine, it sends the message that 'it's not something serious.' It is worth mentioning, as an example, a survey that we did in collaboration with the Traffic Police on the islands regarding whether the traffic wardens were writing fines. In Paros, 99% wrote for not using helmets; in Kos, only 9%. Accidents decreased or increased respectively…. Accident policing will help change our behaviour so we don't kill ourselves and others."

In addition to better policing, other European countries record fewer traffic accidents due to narrower roads.

According to Dr Giannis, "In England, which is a champion in road safety, for the last 40 years, they have been narrowing the roads in the cities. On one-way streets, three metres for vehicles to pass. If it is double, 3.5 metres. Necessarily, the speeds are lower. In Greece, there would be a revolution...".

Once again, in Greece, we suffer not in knowledge but in application

"Although the Strategic Plan for Road Safety was formulated and made public in 2022, we are lagging in implementation," the Professor emphasises, stressing: "There is polyarchy, long delays. It is not possible to have only 200 driving license revocations in a year in the point system – the numbers speak for themselves. The system is not working...'.

READ MORE: Incredible! Athens to Lefkada in 3 hours by car – Watch the video.

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