By Αndreas yfantidis
Without a doubt, we have all heard the famous phrase, or perhaps another version of it, which says that if you sit down in the central square of a country to have a cup of coffee and watch the people driving for about an hour, you will get a clear picture of the culture and education of the inhabitants of that specific country. Although this assessment cannot be entirely objective to provide an overall picture of the cultural values of a country, we could clearly state that road education and whatever characterizes it, is a distinct part of modern culture, especially in a world where transport and journeys are strongly identified by car.
Recently, the revision of the Highway Code as part of an effort to modernize the measures to prevent from and deal with pathogens and problems related to daily journeys and transports, came to public debate. A similar debate has also begun in the French Republic recently , since it was considered appropriate to reduce the speed limits on rural roads with the aim of deducting the number of deaths per million inhabitants to much lower levels than it is today. In the light of these developments we could talk wider and in-depth about the case of Greece where there are many pathogens and in very important fields, which have a huge cost in terms of human lives, injuries and disabilities. While the economic impact, as noted by the special committee of the Greek Parliament on Road Safety, is enormous, since over the past 16 years (2000-2015) the Greek state has spent almost 82 billion euros in the field of road problems and pathogens  when urgent needs in a number of other fields of social and economic interest are identified.
We would say that the data are shocking and, as the former racing driver, Anastasios Markouizos (prominently known by nom de guerre “Iaveris”) says, our country is experiencing a genocide every year on its roads. Let us not go far, that is to say, at the beginning of the previous decade, and let us check in the data of the past few years only three high-risk offences, which can also act as major causes for fatal and heavy road accidents, such as the offence of the red traffic light, drunk driving and speeding. In 2014, for example, we had 13,913 certified red traffic lights offences, and in 2015 that number increased by 651 offences. We also saw an increase in speed violations (2014: 156,892 – 2015: 173,476) , while there was a small reduction in drunk driving incidents as we saw 406 fewer incidents than in 2014. Of course, this was not a conscientious choice as in 2016 drunk driving related offences not only reached those of year 2014, but overtaken them by far reaching the 33,000 offences! For the year 2016  the same happened with the red traffic light offences, which increased by 1,588, while the speed limit exceedances continued their upward trend by 3,116 confirmed offences in the Traffic Police records. Nevertheless, with regard to the years we chose, the relative reports drawn up for linking offences with road accidents, show an absolute decrease in their number, but this does not reflect the reality of the Greek roads and drawing conclusions only from this data, will surely lead us to the formation of a biased picture.
The abovementioned decrease mainly relates to the category of light accidents and not to the overall reduction in accidents involving deaths and serious injuries or disabilities, as will be seen in the picture below. This proves even more that all of our choices in the field of driving are not based on a conscious change in attitudes and behaviors, but in the short-term are based on circumstantial incidents, while in the mid-term and mainly in relation to the last decade they are based on the given economic situation of the country that acts as a catalyst to the change of traffic volume (30% fewer vehicles into service than in 2000), which does not de facto favor the comparative increase in fatal road accidents in relation to the years 2000-2010.
As we can see, for the year 2016, Greece – appearing with the deep-orange color – is in the 2nd worst category (61-80 deaths / million inhabitants) in terms of death to millions inhabitants and really far from the European average (51 deaths / million inhabitants).
Source: European Transport Safety Council, 2016
The factors and causes that lead to this image can be numerous. We all know about road projects with poor workmanship, we have heard about how old some vehicles are, as well as about poor policing on the streets and generally about situations that go beyond the control of everyday people. However, while this may contain grains of truth in all the fields mentioned above, it is nonetheless a conscious and collective causality performance of external, uncontrollable factors, which ultimately leads to a difficulty in adapting to the real data that make up this sad picture. Let’s ask ourselves how many times have we seen drivers of cars and motorcycles go through accelerating, not only in the orange sign of the traffic light, but also in the red one? Or think of the times that we have noticed dangerous maneuvers by drivers holding their cellphones and have observed negative behavior that leads to insults and disputes where it is paradoxically noted that there is no offender, but they are all victims and ultimately silent observers of a lawful reality. These behaviors are only a small sample of a vast truth, in which we have certainly participated more or less, and whenever we deny it, we see an increase in accidents, an increase in the economic distress that we face both as individuals and as a state, and ultimately a sad increase in the number of human lives lost.
So the main issue is not just to make campaigns that focus only individually on the overview of numbers and incidents, but to focus on addressing the conventional trap of “non-participation in reality”. The trap of non-participation in reality is a discriminatory protection mechanism of the person who pushes us into the arbitrary view that these specific incidents may be depictions of reality but, on the other hand, this reality is far from us, we do not participate in it and so we do not mind about it; we only look at it and evaluate it remotely. And while the aforementioned former racing driver, Mr. Markouizos, and other bodies, carry out activities aiming at breaking down this conventional error each year; ultimately the popular saying that “one swallow does not make a summer” is confirmed, since the fight against this trap should be primarily performed in a collective, organized and institutional way, having also as beneficiaries the young age groups. Therefore, it must be understood – and especially by the adults – that what we think as impossible to happen to us, may become an unpleasant everyday life because we took a wrong decision in a few fractions of a second. And for anyone who thinks this is an erroneous or arbitrary perception, he could go back to the annual road accident statistics and find that their increase is unfortunately similar to the deficit in our road education, and we would dare to say, that this kind of deficit is perhaps still bigger than the famous fiscal deficit of recent years.
In conclusion, it is impossible, as we have seen, to regard road education as something separate from modern culture. The development of technology and its penetration into the road transport sector through the automotive development deem necessary the development of road and driving education for all of us. The aim is not only the boost in the field of supervision and control, which means indifference to the process of prevention and initial deterrence of these events, but the fostering of road and driving education, the respect, the increase of attention and ultimately our real participation. Only then can we safely say that our contribution to modern culture is global and substantial in every form and aspect our culture.
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