Despite continued attempts by the police and the authorities to increase road safety in the Balearics, last year the number of fatal accidents rose by nearly 40 per cent and the number of deaths by a third, in comparison to 1998. Last year the death toll on the region's roads was the highest since 1991 and the Balearic traffic authorities have yet to announce how they intend to effectively improve road safety. In total 160 lives were lost in traffic accidents last year and over a third of the victims were aged under 25. The statistics released yesterday by the Director General for Traffic in Madrid will not make comfortable reading for the Balearic traffic department. The mid-nineties saw the number of road deaths fall, but the final three years of the last millennium witnessed a sudden increase. And before the authorities start pointing their fingers at tourists, and claiming the rise in road accidents and deaths mirrors the annual increase in tourists and hire cars: of the 160 fatal accidents last year, only 19 involved rental cars and one of the worst accidents involved a hire car, driven by a group of youngsters from the mainland. Traffic police bosses in the Balearics have been studying a number of areas and claim that there are various factors which have to be taken into account. Traffic sources claim that in some cases, the expansion of cycle lanes and packs of cyclists on the roads do little to help motorists. There are moves to ban cylists from certain roads in a bid to improve safety. But only this week, traffic police chiefs in Madrid denied that drink driving is the cause of most accidents, be it in the Balearics or across Spain, where the death toll every weekend is around 40.
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