Road safety, drunk driving discussed at upper chamber
Traffic Safety Agency acting director Vesna Marinko said the debate was meant to have experts discuss how to prevent drunk driving and exchange views.
She said measures would be drafted on the basis of best practice to improve road safety with a view to achieve vision zero - no fatalities involving road traffic.
Similarly, National Council President Alojz Kovšca said efforts should be made to come close to vision zero as soon as possible. He blamed traffic accidents on alcohol, but also on poorly maintained roads and on "a poor driving culture fostered by Slovenians".
Infrastructure Minister Alenka Bratušek noted that traffic casualties statistics were rising after last year's encouraging figures, so the ministry was already drafting changes to the law on road traffic rules, which would be sent into consultation shortly.
Interior Minister Boštjan Poklukar also pointed to this year's deteriorating statistics, stressing that indifferent people driving under the influence or violating road traffic rules "pose a risk to the entire society".
Justice Minister Andreja Katič, on the other hand, wondered whether more severe punishments for serious traffic offences should be legislated, urging different ministers to contribute to the debate to come to a solution.
She also believes that as a society, Slovenians should take a step forward in trying to prevent friends or acquaintances who are tired or under the influence from driving.
Health Minister Aleš Šabeder said a number of activities were going on at his ministry to address excessive drinking and its impact on road safety.
Executive director of the European Transport Safety Council Antonio Avenoso said as many as 70 people died on European roads daily, 25% of whom due to drunk driving.
He believe the problem should be addressed not only with new legislation to let drivers know driving and alcohol are not compatible, but also with more awareness-raising campaigns as well as fines.
Experts from various fields joining the debate after the officials presented their views believe there is a lot of room for improvement, highlighting traffic control, infrastructure, training of young drivers or the risks posed by older drivers.
There are 300 traffic police officers in Slovenia, while another 150-180 would be needed, said Ivan Kapun of the General Police Department.
What is more, the country has an ineffective and rather complex fining procedure, which should be changed, he said.
Dragan Petrovec from the Institute of Criminology believes drivers would behave differently if there was an effective and legal method to report reckless drivers.
Tomaž Tollazzi of the Maribor Faculty of Civil and Transport Engineering believes having invested heavily in motorways has backfired, because now "our network of state roads is in a mess".
Older drivers also bring new challenges. Borut Žagar from the GZS's association of driving schools wondered how to determine which driver was still a safe driver. However, he also warned that young drivers were losing motor skills.
Critical of a lack of progress, David Razboršek of the NGO Zavod Vozim said "what we are discussing here is the basics which should have been put in place ages ago".
He believes traffic safety decision-makers should be presented with clear-cut proposals which they could simply not turn down.
Kovšca announced the upper chamber of parliament would organise similar events in the future to discuss driving culture, driving under the influence, and manners in which police officers could permanently strip offending drivers of their driving licences.