Digital radar for troublespots

Accident black spots on Portuguese roads will be monitored by 30 digital radar systems from the beginning of the summer, the Minister of Internal Administration, Fernando Lopes, has revealed. Speaking at a road safety forum, Lopes started by revealing how successful the radar system had been in France. The minister claimed that, in the past year, the radars had cut the number of deaths on French roads by 20 per cent. Contrary to traditional radar, which functions with photographic rolls, digital radar systems have a much greater capacity for storing information and are able to relay the offender’s details straight to the Director General of Transport (DGV).

A total of 1,344 people died on Portuguese roads during 2003, 125 less than the previous year, and, according to data released by the ministry, the lowest number since 1975. However, that still amounts to four people killed every day. Now, the government has set a target of cutting that number to around 800 by the year 2010.

In order to achieve this, the ministry proposes a new system of information and management of cars – in the form of the radar system – that centralises the decision-making process of the DGV and that will serve as a kind of ‘electronic lawyer’. The Ministry of Internal Administration also say it will introduce a National Commission for Road Education, jointly run by the Ministry of Education, in order to develop specific programmes for pre-school road safety teaching. This education and awareness programme will then be followed through at primary and secondary school level.

Road crime stats: Luís Barros de Figueiredo, from the Associação de Cidadãos Auto-Mobilizados (ACAM), also spoke at the road safety forum and stressed that crimes perpetrated on the country’s roads – namely driving without a licence, drink driving or causing death by dangerous or negligent driving – accounts for 10 per cent of the country’s total crime figure. Barros de Figueiredo accused the judicial system of a ‘blanket’ approach in its treatment of crimes and criticised the fact that the same legal procedures are applied to juvenile delinquency, tax avoidance and serious road offences. “Lack of means and slowness in procedure are identical in all spheres, but, in this case, people get killed,” he said. He also said community service was a more appropriate form of punishment, as opposed to traditional sanctions, for certain road transgressions. He also made a plea for motorists to cut their speed: “A good city is one where people can move around in safety and not one where cars are driven very fast,” he said.

The ACAM spokesman also pointed the finger at local authorities, alleging that they were indirectly responsible for the deaths of 80 people every year – or five per cent of total accidents – through structural problems with roads, poor construction, faulty sign-posting and other deficiencies.