In the first six months of the year there were 120,000 convictions for road safety offences, and Bartolomé Vargas, the public prosecutor responsible for road safety, believes that there will be 180,000 by the time 2009 is over. These are the figures highlighted by the prosecutor at the first symposium in Barcelona in the series “Different perspectives for integrated action on road safety” organised by the abertis foundation yesterday at the Macba gallery.
Despite these figures, Bartolomé Vargas stated that “We are only reaching a small proportion of those who offend.” The speaker explained that most of the convictions in the first six months of the year were for driving with a blood alcohol rate of over 0.6ml per litre of air exhaled (some 70,000 convictions) and for driving without a licence (some 40,000 convictions). In the opinion of the prosecutor, “If the legal system has not collapsed” it is because drivers “have assimilated the law” and because between 90% and 95% of those accused of driving drunk or without a licence “accept it” and plead guilty immediately. The fact that since 1st May 2008 driving without a licence is punishable by prison has also helped, he said.
Bartolomé Vargas, who defended the figure of the public prosecutor responsible for road safety because it protects “people’s life and physical integrity”, also referred to other offences such as speeding, refusing to submit to blood alcohol tests or tampering with tachographs.
The president of P(A)T, the association of victims of traffic accidents, Maria Eugenia Domènech, gave the second talk at the symposium. She stressed that “Traffic accidents cause 8 deaths and 45 injuries every day” in Spain, adding that “Family members and people close to those killed are the other victims, uncounted and unrecognised, some of them severely scarred for life.”
In this respect, Domènech stated that what is needed is an office to support these victims, where they can get information and guidance, similar to the support offices which exist for victims of domestic violence. She also called for more investment in the area of the legal system.
This speaker recalled that over half of all accidents take place in town. Thus, “Big cities which are a point of reference, like Barcelona and Madrid, must say loudly and clearly that road safety is a priority because in this way other towns will follow their example and apply the rules more strictly.”
Road safety, a national challenge
The series “Different perspectives for integrated action on road safety” was opened by Luis Montoro, member of the scientific committee of the abertis foundation and president of the Spanish foundation for road safety. It also featured Joan Boada, secretary-general of the ministry of home affairs of the government of Catalonia, Francesc Narváez, councillor responsible for mobility at Barcelona city council and Josep Lluís Giménez, business manager of abertis autopistas.
In his speech, Joan Boada said that “The idea of zero accidents is a national challenge. We have cut them by 56% since 2000, which means we are on the right track.” Francesc Narváez focused on the role of the family: “Parents are the first teachers because children take them as points of reference, and when they drive they will do the same as we do now.” For his part, Josep Lluís Giménez referred to the importance of road safety education in the case of small children, saying that “Educating [them] to take responsibility when driving reduces the number of victims. It has a multiplier effect as it spreads from children to their families.”
The second symposium in the series will take place next Wednesday, also at Macba. It will feature talks by Pere Navarro, director-general of traffic, and Rafael Olmos, former director of the Catalan traffic service. The series of talks on “Different perspectives for integrated action on road safety” is part of the Road Safety Programme run by the abertis foundation. This programme is structured in four main areas: road safety education in schools, awareness-raising and publicity activities, fostering research work and organising symposia. The series also falls within the celebration of the tenth anniversary of the foundation.