THE Balearic governor general, Ramón Socias, yesterday issued an urgent plea to the public to buckle up when travelling on the roads.
Four people died in three separate accidents in 48 hours this week. The death toll would have been five had the lone survivor of the tragic accident in the early hours of Monday morning along the Playa de Palma not been wearing a seat belt. Socias urged the public to start taking the advice seriously explaining that on May 27, he was able to report that the 36 road deaths since the start of the year was 45 percent less than the 64 during the same time last year. But since then, six more victims have been added to the death toll. “The figure may still be lower than last year, but, as long as people are dying on our roads, we're failing,” he said. Monday morning's accident along the Playa de Palma in which three young people died has caused a great deal of concern.
Socias was forced to admit that the probable cause was speeding. The crash happened on a straight stretch of road “but until we receive the autopsy results, we don't know if the driver had been drinking or, as is common at that time of the night, the driver was simply tired,” he added. Adding further weight to Socias's plea, the head of the Valladolid accident investigation centre, David Pedrero, said in the Majorcan capital yesterday that wearing a seat belt can protect against 40 to 50 percent of fatal injuries at normal speeds. Driving at over 120 kilometres per hour, there is very little if any protection if involved in a traffic accident. According to his centre's investigations, failing to wear a seat belt is the primary cause of death or disability in the under 45 age group on the roads across the country. In Palma, 80 percent of road deaths have involved people aged between 18 and 32 this year - one of the highest percentages in recent years.
Despite significant improvements in in-car safety systems, better emergency medical care and roads, 100'000 people, 250 seriously, are injured and 5'000 killed on the roads every year in Spain. According to Pedrero, there is obviously a clear need for further advances and improvements in road safety. He believes that one step in the right direction would be to increase the public's awareness about what actually happens in a car crash and what the various consequences are at differing speeds. “Drivers should be aware of what security and safety measures and tests have been carried out on their particular vehicle in the event of head-on collision at 65 kilometres per hour or being hit on the side at 50 kilometres per hour,” he said. “Then more drivers might drive within the allocated speed limits and pay more attention to what security measures have been taken inside the car, for example that everyone is wearing a seat belt, and what is happening around them on the road,” he added. “Vehicles are designed to travel best at certain speeds and people have to be aware of that,” he said.
At present, in-car speed control systems are being tested in Spain - but whether they become standard depends very much on vehicle manufacturers, he explained. In the meantime, Pedrero told delegates at the national congress of accident and casualty doctors in Palma that the authorities should step up awareness campaigns and ensure that traffic police throw the book at drivers breaking traffic laws.