By Lois Jones
SOMEWHERE in the region of 143'000 people in the Balearics run a high risk of having an accident due to crossing roads incorrectly while 1'500 local drivers admit that they never respect traffic lights; the resulting danger to pedestrians and other vehicle users is self-evident. According to a survey on mobility and road safety carried out by the Royal Automobile Club of Catalonia (RACC) which has analysed traffic movement and driver behaviour in town areas, 22'000 drivers in the Balearics admit to not respecting speed restrictions in built-up areas. The executive secretary of the RACC Foundation, Alfonso Perona, confirmed yesterday in Palma that 21 percent of pedestrians cross the streeet incorrectly. Old people and children are the groups most at risk. He also reported that newly qualified drivers and pedestrians are the most likely to have an accident, although car drivers in the Balearic islands show a greater sense of responsibility about avoiding accidents in comparision to the national average, he commented. The RACC, which conducted the survey last March, interviewed by phone 402 people who were over the age of 15, resident in the Balearics. Some 84.2 percent of car drivers claimed that they are careful drivers. The survey pointed to the fact that 68.1 percent of pedestrians acknowledged altering their pattern of behaviour to avoid being put at risk by traffic. As much as 66.3 percent of those interviewed believed that Palma is a place for cars to get about in, not people. Further, the report showed that nearly 530'000 inhabitants of the Balearic archipelago considered that the permitted speed limits in towns are not respected and gave a sharp reminder that when a pedestrian is hit by a vehicle travelling at more than 50 kilometres per hour, the result will be fatal. Findings indicated that 49.6 percent of those interviewed were of the opinion that there isn't sufficient time to cross wide avenues and showed that 59.7 percent of residents in the Balearic Islands believe that zebra crossings without traffic lights are properly signalled, while the national average for opinion on this point is 65.57 percent. In the undertaking of this analysis, the Royal Automobile Club of Catalonia concentrated on four large avenues in Palma, where the traffic light system was judged to be good. The time allowed by the signals to ensure safe crossing of pedestrians was not less than 95 seconds. In order to improve security, Perona urged the installation of a traffic light system that visibly showed pedestrians how long they had to safely cross the road. The system automatically triggers a “countdown” half way through its cycle. On the subject of the signalling of areas where pedestrians have priority, the report showed that in the Balearic Islands, some 40 percent of those interviewed said they didn't know about the existence of these areas. In relation to zebra crossings without traffic lights, twenty-two percent said they believed that the vehicles have priority. The RACC director underlined the preference for the use of private instead of public transport in the Balearics and strongly advised spreading information on ecological driving techniques to promote fuel savings. Referring to the design and accessibility of towns, Perona declared that 81.4 percent of people interviewed claimed that roadworks were the major cause of blocked pavements, while 63.7 percent said the main obstacles were badly parked motorbikes and motorcycles. In this respect, he reported that the Balearics has the highest index of privately owned cars per head of population, as well as being the self-governing community where there is the largest number of motorbikes and motorcylces per head of population. The RACC plans campaigns to change driving habits and will demand greater control on drivers by town councils.

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