Police evaluate results of nationwide crackdown on bad drivers

08-10-2003

The Czech police are evaluating the results of a nationwide police crackdown on the country's notoriously bad drivers. Some 27,000 policemen were deployed last week for the five-day operation, dubbed "Krystof" - St Christopher, the patron saint of travellers. During that time police stopped more than 350,000 cars, and recorded a staggering 118,000 driving offences - including over 20,000 cases of speeding and almost a thousand cases of drink driving.

Operation Krystof was more a show of strength than anything else - a signal to the nation's drivers that they are not, as many clearly believe, untouchable. Among those who gave the campaign the thumbs up was Robert Stastny, head of the Transport Ministry's road safety department:

"It's a clear signal that the police want to do something with the problems on the roads, and enforcement is the basic measure how to improve the situation, so I think it's a very clear, good signal to everybody that the police are willing to do something effective."

Operation Krystof did, of course, have its critics. The crackdown was intended to make Czech roads a safer place, but the weekend that directly followed it was one of the worst in recent years, with some 26 people - including three police officers - losing their lives. Others complained that a five-day zero-tolerance campaign was a cosmetic solution to a much deeper problem.

Interior Minister Stanislav Gross pointed out that a new law being submitted to parliament this month should provide longer-term solutions. Under the new legislation, police will once again be allowed to confiscate licences from bad drivers and a points system will also be introduced. But road safety director Robert Stastny highlighted another important change: the controversial Operation Krystof has at least sparked a debate in Czech society.

"I'm very satisfied with this discussion because it makes society prepared for these solutions. Society must realise that this bad situation needs measures, and everybody must change. So the behaviour of everybody must change - the situation on the roads depends on us."

That cultural shift in attitudes to road safety will of course take time. For the meantime, however, Czech drivers will have to get use to seeing more policemen on the roads. Mr Gross announced on Wednesday that Operation Krystof II will be launched within a month.

08-10-2003