Severe Times, Severe Laws

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Even though the number of dead and wounded in the car accidents has already been halved over the previous decade, the statistics are still alarming. Two years ago, 214 people died; in 2010, the number of dead in the car accidents was 138. In the first six months of 2011, 69 people died due to injuries in car accidents, which is more than in the same period of the previous year. The most common reasons for fatal accidents are speeding, driving in the wrong direction (against the flow of traffic) and ignorance of the traffic regulations. Slovenia is also known to be one of the European countries whose citizens consume the largest amount of alcohol per habitant. Thirty percent of all people who are guilty of causing traffic accidents are later proven to have been drinking while driving. The new set of laws are therefore aimed especially on those who are both driving too fast and drunk.

No more fast and furious

The police have declared war against drivers who speed in cities, towns and villages. Driving 60 km/h, in a 30 km/h zone can cost you your driving license in addition to a maximum fine of €1,200 (the average monthly salary in Slovenia is around 970 euros).
The same sentence applies if you drive 50 km/h over the limit within an inhabited area. Meanwhile, driving 50 km/h over the limit (or more) on highways will cost €400. You will also lose your licence.
Since there have been several cases of people caught driving in the wrong direction on the highway, new legislation introduces maximum sentence (€1,200 and immediate seizure of driving licence) for this.

New rules for alcohol abusers

If the police stop you when you are drunk and find out you have a blood alcohol level of more than 1.1 in your breath, you will immediately lose your license, pay the maximum fine and spend from 6 to 12 hours on the police station, until they decide you are sober enough to go home. The same applies if you are driving under the influence of drugs or strong medications.
One innovation is that the police officers will have the discretion of deciding when to keep you in jail to sober up and when you are fit enough to continue your travel. People who lose their licence due to alcohol or drug abuse will have to participate in the mandatory rehabilitation as well. This can take place as educational and practical workshops, or as classical treatment.

Heavy on the bikers

In 2006, five percent of all casualties of fatal traffic accidents were cyclists. The number has since risen to 12 percent (9 people) in the first half of this year. Therefore, police will be paying more attention to them as well. They will have to pay fines for driving in the wrong direction, using a mobile phone or listening to music while riding. Children under age of fourteen must use safety helmets, which are recommended but not mandatory for everyone else.

Experts: it will not work

Even though no one is denying the need to change Slovenia’s driving culture, experts are concerned that the new traffic legislation will not bring the desired effect, especially since this set of laws is only one in the long series that has been increasing the severity of punishment for traffic offenses. They worry that this is merely treating the symptoms and that it does not affect the core of the social problem that leads to the offences on the road. Some early polls also indicate that drivers do not believe they will be driving slower because of the higher sentences.
The question how to solve the sad death toll on the Slovenian roads therefore remains unanswered. Only the future will show if charging people will do any good.