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Romanian love affair with the wheel shows contempt for public space

A national disgrace of Romania is the nationís pathetic record on road safety. Every year EU-collated statistics have revealed how Romania is the most dangerous country in the 27 member-bloc for traffic fatalities

April 2011 - From the Print Edition

With information comparing the number of deaths to the number of hours driven on the road, Romania tops the list with a massive margin - in 2009 it was twice as dangerous as Bulgaria and 20 times as dangerous as Sweden.
The figure has dropped since 2008, as in other countries, due to a lower purchasing power which sees citizens spend less time in their cars. But there is a fear that once the economy revives, drivers will increase their hours on the road, and fatalities could pick up.
Meanwhile the Government still fails to come up with an inter-ministerial strategy on road safety and has also recently cut the budget for a research institute into traffic security.
Why is there such a high rate of car crashes? There are key issues - poor road infrastructure, unclear signage, untrained drivers and a propensity of pedestrians to jay-walk - often because there is no pavement.
But there is also another factor common to societies with huge wealth disparities in emerging markets - it is about class.
Drivers cutting red lights or speeding are disproportionately behind the wheel of expensive cars, where often the driver is on his mobile phone.
Much of the time they are rich, sometimes they are drunk, but they are not always Romanian. The laxity of the Romanian traffic system and the permissiveness of Romanian drivers seems to give the nationís international guests a carte blanche to behave with criminal tendencies.
These drivers do not understand the responsibility of being a car owner, believing that they are in charge of a toy and not a weapon. However - for the man or woman on the street, there is no difference between a 1,500 kg 4X4 tearing through a red light into a group of passing pedestrians and a rocket being launched into a town market.
These drivers do not choose to understand that traffic regulations exist for the safety of the citizens and not to limit their personal freedom. They believe that if they are caught by the authorities for a traffic offence, this is something from which they can buy their way out.
They believe that if they can afford an expensive car, they can drive it where they want and how they want. If they spend 70,000 Euro on a vehicle that can hit 200 km per hour, they believe they have a right to drive at this speed on streets.
It is about one class of people who believe that private ownership gives them the right to hold the public space in contempt. It creates a Romania of two halves - those who see the country as a playground and those who see it as a battleground.
Education, proper training and better road signage would help - but there also needs to be more direct action by citizens. There should be a database available of the registration numbers of every car that cuts through a red light without penalties - a blacklist - because these individuals are guilty of attempted murder.
Citizens should share the registration numbers and smash the windows or let down the tyres of any car guilty of a traffic crime for which the driver has served no punishment. I would also recommend that the graffiti artists who stencil the city streets or underground trains - which are cleaned at a great cost to the taxpayer - should reorient their creative impulses to private cars who cut red lights or park their vehicles illegally. The public space needs to fight back.

Michael Bird

There is 1 comment:

Mike Bradley: on 2011-04-13 13:31:13
I have visited Romania on business in the last few months and I can say that I do not find your drivers any more dangerous than say the Spanish or Germans. One piece of constructive criticism I would like to offer is perhaps you could make the speed limit signs more prominent. Locals know where the limits begin and end but us visitors do not and more prominent signage would help.

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