DEADLY CHAOS

by Maria Vasileva, MEDIAPOOL

Traffic accidents cost one billion euros a year, but the state does little to help

Ever been driven around in a Bulgarian taxi? Then most likely you remember clinging to the door handle in terror while the cab driver pulled out from the far right lane at a major intersection to make a left turn – on red in front of an on-coming tram. Although it probably only cost you a few years off your life and perhaps a dry-cleaning bill, the Bulgarian government pays a much higher price for such recklessness. According to a recent survey conducted by the Danish consulting firm COWI, Bulgaria shells out one billion euros every year for costs related to traffic accidents. This hefty price tag includes direct expenses such as emergency police and medical services and rehabilitation for accident victims, as well as indirect losses due to injured citizens' reduced labour capacity.

Thanks to EU pressure, Bulgaria has developed an action plan to reduce by half the number of traffic fatalities and injuries. But as COWI points out, “Nothing will improve unless the national government seriously changes its attitude.” Bulgarian roads are twice as deadly as Western Europe's. In 2006, more than 1,000 people died in road accidents in Bulgaria, while the number injured was over 10,200. Things only got worse in 2007, when fatalities reached almost 1,100 and injuries nearly 11,000. If current trends continue, in 2010 traffic accidents in Bulgaria will claim about 1,300 lives and injure 13,400.

Bulgaria has pledged to reduce the number of traffic victims by 2010 to the established EU norms: injuries should number no more than 6,600, while fatalities must not exceed 700. Bulgaria has its work cut out – while the other member states have steadily reduced fatalities, Bulgaria has seen a five percent increase in deaths and a seven percent rise in traffic injuries annually.

COWI – and any Bulgarian – knows why: the government's lack of control and action, as well as the public's keen awareness of this institutional apathy, breeds reckless driving and disregard for the law.

Urban risks are significantly greater than highway hazards. In Bulgaria nearly half of all injury-causing accidents happen in town. In other EU countries, urban smash-ups make up a third of such cases at most. However, highway accidents tend to be far more serious than in-town fender-benders due to higher speeds. To reduce fatalities, COWI urged the Bulgarian government to institute a national emergency telephone number and to equip all major highways with traffic emergency warning stations.

If these grim statistics make you want to park your car and walk, think again. COWI also notes that the percentage of pedestrians killed in traffic accidents is also much higher in Bulgaria than in other EU countries.

COWI indicates that Bulgarian reforms miss the mark. The measures taken to impose EU standards are weak if not entirely absent, while their implementation, when it occurs, is haphazard and badly coordinated.

Jesper Mertner of COWI points out that the institutions created to impose safety measures, such as the State-Public Consultative Commission on Road Safety Problems, do not have the necessary funding, legal authority or personnel to act effectively. Every year they identify the biggest traffic headaches, but since the commission has no clout, little improvement results from this labelling. This problem is compounded by the almost complete lack of monitoring to gauge the effectiveness of new traffic safety measures.

Does Bulgaria have any chance of reaching EU targets? Probably not, Mertner concludes.

So next time you're clutching a taxi dashboard, if pleas for your life don't move the driver, try using an economic argument. Not only can the cabbie help the government save a cool billion, but slower driving – and even stopping at red lights – may help him boost his own fare.

GOT CHANGE FOR A 20, OFFICER?

The COWI report pointed out another elephant in the living room – the fact that Bulgarians do not trust the traffic police. COWI noted that it is possible to avoid paying tickets due to “the lack of a written strategy for the traffic police”. Any Bulgarian can tell you there is no shortage of unwritten rules about the proper way to slip a 10-leva bill into your driver's license.

  • COMMENTING RULES

    Commenting on www.vagabond.bg

    Vagabond Media Ltd requires you to submit a valid email to comment on www.vagabond.bg to secure that you are not a bot or a spammer. Learn more on how the company manages your personal information on our Privacy Policy. By filling the comment form you declare that you will not use www.vagabond.bg for the purpose of violating the laws of the Republic of Bulgaria. When commenting on www.vagabond.bg please observe some simple rules. You must avoid sexually explicit language and racist, vulgar, religiously intolerant or obscene comments aiming to insult Vagabond Media Ltd, other companies, countries, nationalities, confessions or authors of postings and/or other comments. Do not post spam. Write in English. Unsolicited commercial messages, obscene postings and personal attacks will be removed without notice. The comments will be moderated and may take some time to appear on www.vagabond.bg.

Add new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.

Restricted HTML

  • Allowed HTML tags: <a href hreflang> <em> <strong> <cite> <blockquote cite> <code> <ul type> <ol start type> <li> <dl> <dt> <dd> <h2 id> <h3 id> <h4 id> <h5 id> <h6 id>
  • Lines and paragraphs break automatically.
  • Web page addresses and email addresses turn into links automatically.

Discover More

BETWEEN THE FRYING PAN AND THE FIRE
Тhe overwhelming majority of Bulgarians who will go to the polls in June to elect their next National Assembly will do so with one all-pervasive sentiment. Disgust.
WHY DO SO MANY BULGARIANS LOVE RUSSIA?
In the 1990s and early 2000s Bulgaria, a former East bloc country, was an enthusiastic applicant to join both NATO and the EU. Twenty years later the initial enthusiasm has waned.

LIARS OR BEING LIED TO?
Тo understand the current predicament of the Changes Continued political party, one of whose leaders, Kiril Petkov, was prime minister in 2021-2022, one needs to consider the characteristically complicated background.

WITH BOTH EUROS IN THE PAST
In spite of the protestations of the ruling "fixture" between PP-DB (Changes Continued of Kiril Petkov and Asen Vasilev and Democratic Bulgaria of Gen Atanas Atanasov and Hristo Ivanov) and Boyko Borisov's GERB about the "top national pri

WHO IS AFRAID OF VASIL 'SKULL' BOZHKOV?
While Bulgarians left, right and centre are quibbling over the fate of a pile of stones crowned by some sculpted Red Army soldiers in central Sofia, the state prosecution service quietly terminated a case started by Vasil Bozhkov, one of this country's weal

RUMOURS OF GERB'S DEMISE TURN OUT TO BE PREMATURE
Polling agencies got it wrong again

CHURCH OF DISCONTENT
Colourful and gilt-domed, looking like a toy, the St Nicholas the Miracle-Worker church in central Sofia is known to Bulgarians simply as the Russian Church.

PP-DB'S FALSE STARTS
Notwithstanding the amendments to the Constitution proposed by Nikolay Denkov's "fixture" (the word he uses to describe the government), several bits of legislation put forward by the rulers and quickly voted into law have raised eyebrows and prompted a sig

UPS & DOWNS OF BULGARIAN ANTISEMITISM
А crudely-cut cartoon circulating on social media shows Former Foreign Minister Solomon Pasi, who is Jewish, being held by two Nazi-clad soldiers. The text (in Bulgarian) reads: "If you don't want Russian gas, we will give you some of ours."

IT'S THE HISTORY, STUPID!
In 2013, when the Inland Revenue agency started a probe into alleged wrongdoing by then President Rosen Plevneliev, he famously excused himself: I am not a Martian. Plevneliev had been a minister for Boyko Borisov.

BYE-BYE, IVAN GESHEV
Three years after the event, the massive street protests that blocked the traffic in Central Sofia in the course of months, in 2020, seem to have achieved their original aims.
END OF 'MAFIA STATE'?
If anyone believed that the CC-DB, or Changes Continued-Democratic Bulgaria alliance, who lost the April election and are now the second largest party in the Bulgarian National Assembly, were serious in their declared and oft-repeated pledges they wanted to