by PAULO SILVESTRE
Ten people have died on the Algarve’s roads since January, nine on the EN125 in January alone, reinforcing its infamous status as the “road of death” and confirming the fears of people opposing tolls on the A22.
The most serious accident was recorded near Guia, Albufeira, on January 15, in which three people died and two were seriously injured.
Faro Civil Governor Isilda Gomes, who has been involved in several road awareness campaigns, has called for drivers to have a more responsible attitude behind the wheel. She told the Algarve Resident: “The road accident rate in the Algarve is worrying and a permanent concern for authorities and entities with responsibility in the matter.
“The EN125 is not the only problem road. However, we have placed special focus on this road, analysing the causes of accidents recorded and identifying critical areas. This allowed us to create a list of suggestions and possible solutions, which were handed to the responsible entities for intervention.”
Isilda Gomes says most of the accidents on the EN125 are caused due to human error, in order words, lack of care from drivers.
“Despite our best efforts, the problem of road accidents due to poor driving continues. To be able to fight against road deaths, we must improve intervention and boost awareness campaigns, which will be complemented by the redevelopment of the EN125.”
“The analysis of accidents registered in the Algarve region has revealed that a large number result from human error. I reiterate that drivers have to be the first to combat this problem by becoming more responsible on the road. Without their participation, it will be impossible to cut our road deaths to the lowest levels possible.”
Meanwhile, left-wing politician João Vasconcelos, who set up the Comissão de Utentes da A22, the Algarve motorway users’ commission, has a different opinion about the “black scenario” on the EN125 and believes that the introduction of tolls on the A22 will lead to an increase in traffic volume and fatalities on that road.
He told the Algarve Resident: “Once tolls are introduced on the A22, traffic volumes on the EN125 will increase and, as a consequence, the number of fatalities will double or triple. The redevelopment works that are being carried out on the road will further aggravate the problem of lack of safety.
“Regardless of redevelopment works, the EN125 will never be an alternative to the A22-Via do Infante. If tolls are introduced, drivers will be forced to travel on the EN125, which is a ‘street’. There will also be serious traffic circulation problems.”
Meanwhile, the new association opposing the introduction of tolls on the A22, named Plataforma Regional Antiportagens, which comprises of the Algarve Câmaras Association AMAL, five business associations, the Comissão de Utentes da A22 and two Algarve unions, hosted a forum in Loulé on February 19 about the economic and social impact of tolls in the region.
In an interview with Expresso TV online news channel after the forum, Algarve PS member Vítor Neto, a former Secretary of State for Tourism, said: “We are not asking for special privileges for the Algarve. However, the region does differ from the rest of the country. The introduction of tolls will be very detrimental to tourism and the region’s economy as a whole.”
Also present at the forum, Algarve PSD politician and MP Mendes Bota said: “The rest of the country does not understand the Algarve. People may think we want to be in a position of privilege but that is not the case.”
Macário Correia, Faro Mayor and president of AMAL, told the online news channel: “We have had a civilised attitude so far and chosen the democratic way to show our discontent.
“We know it is not easy to explain the Algarve case to other people who are already paying tolls elsewhere in the country, but it is a fact that we have special reasons. More than two-thirds of the Via do Infante was built with European funds. Why should we now have to pay for the road again?” he concluded.
The Algarve Resident tried to obtain a full report from the national roads authority Estradas de Portugal (EP) about the redevelopment works currently being carried out on the EN125 but despite several attempts made by telephone and email, no one from EP responded to our request at the time of going to press.
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Road accident statistics on Algarve roads
Between January 1 and February 8 2011 – 10 deaths
Same period in 2010 – six deaths
Same period in 2009 – five deaths
In 2010, 57 people died on Algarve roads and 157 were seriously injured
Source: National Authority for Civil Protection (ANPC)