Friday, 22 February 2008

Drivers with Guardian Angels - on Spanish Traffic Accidents

Sunday evenings can bring unease as it is, but to make things worse, this is when Catalan and Spanish TV make a summary of the road deaths of the weekend. As if the high numbers were not enough to shock us, they are usually presented with terribly explicit pictures of the accidents.

When we left Sweden seven years ago, the Swedish Road Administration had been successful in communicating its objective to reach zero road deaths. And we have believed that things must be developing well, since Swedes are so careful drivers:

# Swedes always make a full stop at stop signs, while people here merely slow down.
# Swedes stop when traffic signals switch to amber, while most drivers here give the gas pedal a push when the light changes to red.
# On highways, Swedes slavishly go back to the right lane unless they are overtaking, while lane hopping, with overtaking wherever possible, is common here.
# Swedish children are always belted and their parents put on the safety belt preferably before they even start the car (I admit that I am one of them). Here people are a lot more relaxed.
# Swedes know not to drive the day after they have been drinking, while the custom here is that a couple of glasses of wine should not prevent you from driving. One high profile Spanish politician has even defended people’s right to drink driving.

For these reasons, we were highly surprised when a fellow Swedish blogger opened up our eyes to reality and yesterday we received it black on white in statistics from the European Union for 2007. The death toll of 2.741 people in Spain is a decrease with 9% compared to 2006, while the 490 road deaths in Sweden represent an increase with 10%. With a fast split by the number of inhabitants, Spain comes out only slightly worse than Sweden and that is before you add the huge number of tourists on the Spanish roads.

My wife and I are of course happy to see that our new home is not as dangerous as we have thought. But we honestly do not understand how it can be.


Keefieboy said...

But hey, in Dubai the numbers are simply staggering.Even with zero-tolerance for alcohol, there will be around 3-5 deaths a week in a city of 1.25 million. It is truly scary.

Erik Wirdheim said...

That is truly strange, since I assume that it cannot be blamed on poor road conditions or bad weather either.

Keefieboy said...

That's right Erik: it's more to do with a complete inability to drive!

Erik Wirdheim said...

Sounds scary. You'd better come back to Spain!