by Staff Reporter
IT was a tragic year on the Balearic roads, where 97 people died, six more (6.6 per cent) than in 2003. The total number of road deaths in Spain dropped by 12.7 per cent to 3'516 persons.

The figures were released yesterday by the minister of the interior, José Antonio Alonso.
The Balearics was one of four regions where the death toll rose in 2004. Top of the list was La Rioja with 59 victims, up from 45 (31.1 per cent), followed by Extremadura, where 145 people died (up from 133, nine per cent).

The Balearics had the third largest increase and in fourth place was Navarre, where the number of victims rose by 4.3 per cent to 73.
Alonso said that the reduction in the death toll throughout Spain as a whole (513 persons less than 2003) was due to an increase in controls for drink/drug driving and speeding. He also said that drivers were behaving better.

The minister went on to explain that the number of people who were seriously injured in road accidents went down by 21.57 per cent to 1'629 people (448 fewer than 2003).

The number of people who sustained slight injuries dropped by 20.86 per cent to 1'559 (411 fewer).
Alonso described the reduction in the number of victims as “good news” and congratulated drivers, traffic police, accident victims' associations and the media.

However, he warned that more than 3'500 deaths meant “there is room to continue reducing the carnage on the roads” and the campaigns against drink and speeding will continue. He added that there would also be explanations and recommendations to stress a culture of road safety.

He pointed out that it is young people who suffer most in road accidents, as 29 per cent of those who died were under the age of 14 and 25 per cent were aged between 18 and 25.

The chief causes of accidents are distraction (blamed for 27 per cent of the fatal accidents) and speeding (23 per cent) as well as drink driving and failure to respect the Highway Code, the minister said.

As to the type of road, 76 per cent of the fatal accidents ocurred on conventional roads, while the number of fatal accidents on motorways dropped by 61 and the number of deaths was 88 fewer than 2003.

Over the Christmas period, traffic police carried out 230'000 breathalyser tests all over the country, an average of 20'000 a day. Of these, 3'650 or 1.56 per cent were positive, which was “a high figure” according to Alonso.

During this period the number of people who died on the roads was 91 compared to 127 over Christmas 2003.
Alonso went on to say that the number of motorcyclists killed on the roads rose by 17 per cent to 270, 40 more than 2003. This included a 25 per cent increase in motorcyclists who were not wearing crash helmets. The number of people who died in cars dropped by 431 to 2'177, while the number of scooter riders killed dropped by 26 to 143.

The biggest reduction in the death toll was in the Basque Country, where the number of deaths dropped by 42 per cent, from 173 to 100.