By Humphrey Carter

PALMA
EIGHT more lives were lost in 2010 on the Balearic roads than during 2009 and, according to the central government delegate to the Balearics, Ramon Socias, driver distraction has become the biggest threat.

A total of 56 people were killed in traffic accidents last year and, in 40 percent of the tragic cases, driver distraction was to blame when in 2009, when 48 lives were lost, driver distraction accounted for 30 percent with speeding being the main killer.

However, according to Socias, that appears to have changed.
In 2009, speeding was the cause of 44 percent of fatal accidents while last year, the percentage was just 22 percent.
Numerous attempts have been made over recent years to not only reduce fatal traffic accidents, but to also increase driver awareness of the need to keep their eyes on the roads.

First it was the mobile telephone which caused the most distraction. But tough laws enforcing the use of hands-free phones were introduced to control the use of mobiles.

But, the traffic authorities and highway police have a running battle with the users of GPS, global satellite positioning systems, while driving as well as smoking while driving.

The latter is another habit which could be prohibited in the near future in a bid to reduce driver distractions and the number of fatal accidents. Socias reported yesterday that there were a total of 3'866 traffic accidents in the Balearics last year.

In 2'197 accidents injuries were sustained by drivers and passengers and in 56, people died within 24 hours of the accident.
Despite the increase in the number of fatalities, Socias said that the over all figures show an improvement in the behaviour of drivers.
But, as long as people continue to die on the Baleraric roads, Socias said that there are always going to be grounds for concern and the need for new measures to improve road safety.

Since 2001, when 149 lives were lost on local roads, the number of road deaths has fallen by 62 percent in the Balearics and that apart from in 2003, 2007 and last year, the steady reduction in the number of road deaths has continued.

Alcohol, however, continues to be the third cause of fatal accidents and that too rose last year. In 2009, alcohol was the cause of nine percent of accidents, last year it rose to 15 percent and this is another problem Socias intends to tackle over the course of this year.

Socias also revealed that last summer was the most tragic period in the Balearics with three times as many lives, 24 in total, lost during July, August and September of last year in comparison to 2009.

In August of 2009, for example, only one person was killed on the Balearic roads, last year, the death toll was ten and another area of deep concern is that the number of people under 30 losing their lives more than doubled last year.

However, Socias stressed that, despite the waves of awareness campaigns mounted by the traffic authorities, at the end of the day the ultimate responsibility rests in the hands of the driver.

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