At first sight, this looks like an improbable chain of events that ended in tragedy, such as could happen anywhere in the world. However, the details expose what many Bulgarians would see as a typically Bulgarian mixture of stupidity, negligence, poverty and criminal indifference that has come to characterise life in the EU's newest member state over the past few years.
At around 10 pm on a June evening a young woman was hit by two consecutive cars speeding on the Plovdiv-Sofia motorway. The woman, identified as Dobromira, was walking next to the fast lane of the motorway, in pitch darkness. She was pushing... a pram with her one-year-old son in it. Dobromira was killed instantly, but the baby miraculously was catapulted out of the pram, landed on some grass and was later treated for minor injuries in a Plovdiv hospital.
Neither of the two drivers who had hit the woman bothered to stop. A unrelated vehicle passing by afterwards saw a body on the tarmac, stopped, and called the traffic police.
According to a hypothesis promulgated in the media, Dobromira, from Saedinenie (a town about 20 kilometres north-west of Plovdiv), had been visiting relatives in Asenovgrad. She missed the 7.30 pm bus service from Plovdiv to her native town. She did have money with her because she had just collected the disability pension she was entitled to, owing to severe eyesight problems, but she must have decided to economise on the cab fare and opted to walk instead. She was probably killed on the motorway as she was trying to cross the central barrier. Besides the baby, Dobromira left behind a five-year-old son and a husband.
What the media failed to comment on was how this could have happened in the first place, as the following points illustrate.
Dobromira acted in an extremely irresponsible manner, breaking the traffic laws and jeopardising both her and her baby's life by trying to cross a motorway pushing a pram. Stupidity, irresponsibility and a somewhat characteristic Bulgarian penchant for circumventing the laws "because we know better," sadly, added up to the fatal ending.
The road agency should have taken much better care to prevent potential accidents like this by erecting proper fences and railings along all motorways and high-speed roads in Bulgaria. At the present time, few such barriers exist, and most are substandard.
Even though the Boyko Borisov government is very proud of having inaugurated new stretches of motorway, few of these are built to international standards. One very obvious deficiency is the lack of any lighting at junctions, roundabouts and exits. In this respect Bulgaria is unique in Europe, where even roads in relatively remote areas would have proper lighting installed, at least on the outskirts of towns. The road into Sofia, by contrast, is a nightmare experience in the dark, especially if you are coming from Plovdiv.
Poverty. Few citizens of other EU states would decide to economise on a cab ride and walk 20-plus kilometres instead, pushing a baby pram.
Criminal indifference. The hit-and-run drivers who killed Dobromira must have realised that she was clearly breaking the law. Notwithstanding their shock, they should have stopped and tried to help.
Gloating media. As usual, the media indulged in all the gory details, rather than focusing, analysing and commenting on the issues listed above. Could the tragedy have been prevented? Unfortunately, this road accident illustrated how intertwined things in Bulgaria are and how easy it is disrupt their precarious balance. It would not be far-fetched to presume that the situation is the same in the media, in politics, in the fight against organised crime and so on and so forth. One step in the wrong direction and all the deficiencies of the Bulgarian system may make themselves felt ‒ and with very severe consequences.