Portugal has the highest number of deaths by road accidents in the EU and is reportedly second only to Turkey at the foot of the European list. This weekend one of Portugal’s most famous bullfighters, Diamantino Viseu, was killed as he crossed a street in central Lisbon. The death of this public figure sparked an enquiry into Portugal’s road accidents. The statistics for the last two weeks are a good indicator as to the norm: 50 dead. The police record for the week between 5th and 11th February reads: 2,368 road accidents, 27 dead, 89 serious injuries, 622 light injuries, 232 cases of drunken driving (86 of which were arrested for being drunk and incapable) and 240 cases of reckless driving. Police sources state these statistics are those of an average week An opinion poll (Marktest) showed that 30% of men polled state that they have driven “when not in good condition to do so”. This means driving while under the influence of alcohol. The Portuguese authorities have tried an endless number of measures to combat the situation but the number of accidents remains at a constant level. Firstly, drivers are badly prepared by the driving schools, in some of which a “gift” of 150 USD facilitates a pass in the exam. Secondly, the notion of speed and safety is not what it should be. Finally, taking these two factors into consideration that Portugal has the worst record for alcoholism in Europe, the accidents are explained. It is a cultural and historic question which will only change when people change their behaviour.
TIMOTHY BANCROFT-HINCHEY PRAVDA.RU LISBON