Topics discussed in this week's Mailbox: speed limits in the Czech Republic and Czech charitable organisations active abroad. We quote from letters from Ashik Eqbal Tokon from Bangladesh, Mick Horsefield from England and Muhammad Shamim from India.
Thanks for tuning in to Mailbox. This Thursday was the official beginning of autumn and quite appropriately, temperatures have dropped by a good ten degrees compared to the beginning of September. You can see people coughing and sneezing everywhere and I myself had to stay at home for a few days. So my thanks to David Vaughan for standing in for me last week and to Mr Tokon from Bangladesh for his get-well-soon email.
Now let's get to other letters and emails.
This Wednesday was European Car Free Day, an event raising awareness of other means of transport that are less dangerous and more environmentally friendly. Car free days traditionally meet with little enthusiasm in the Czech Republic, both on the part of authorities and drivers themselves. In a response to Radio Prague's frequent reports on traffic accidents and the bad road accident record in the Czech Republic, Mick Horsefield from Manchester, England, sent us a letter asking:
"I wonder if you have any deterrents for speeding and drinking, e.g. speed ramps, cameras and speed limits?"
We have all those here in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic has a zero tolerance against drinking and driving but still a significant part of fatal accidents are caused by drunk drivers. The speed limit in municipalities is 50 kilometres per hour. It was reduced from 60 kilometres per hour in October 1997 because statistics had shown that 70 percent of all road accidents occured in municipalities, with 40 percent of the total number of deaths and 60 percent of all injuries caused by traffic accidents.
At the same time in 1997 the maximum speed limit on motorways in the Czech Republic was increased from 110 km/h to 130 km/h. While the reduction of the maximum speed in municipalities brought a decrease in the number of fatalities, the result of the increase of the speed limit on motorways had just the opposite result.
As for speed ramps, they have been introduced in the 1990s and today you can find them around schools or in residential areas. Cameras at traffic lights have been used by the police for many, many years.
But still, for all these measures Czechs don't seem to be driving much more carefully. At the moment a government-proposed bill is being discussed in parliament that is expected to be much stricter towards offenders on the roads. Because the statistics are grim: every three minutes a car crashes somewhere on Czech roads and every seven hours a person dies as a result of a traffic accident.
Radio Prague often reports on the activities of Czech NGOs, or non-governmental organisations that are helping the needy in countries struck by war or natural disasters.
Our faithful listener Muhammad Shamim from India would like to know more about Czech charitable organisations.
Well, the three that are most significantly involved in foreign countries are People in Need, Adra and Caritas Czech Republic, also known as the Czech Catholic Charity.
Caritas Czech Republic is working in the Northern Caucasus, in both Chechnya and Ingushetia, in the Sudanese province of Darfur, in Bangladesh and India. Recently it also provided assistance in the Russian city of Beslan after the terrorist attack in a local school.
The Czech branch of the international organisation Adra is currently helping people in Bangladesh that was affected by disastrous floods this summer. It is also involved in the Russian city of Beslan after the recent terrorist attack and in other countries, such as Moldova and Ukraine.
People in Need is currently focused on Iraq, Afghanistan and Chechnya, having previously worked in Bosnia and Kosovo and having helped during and after the floods that affected the Czech Republic in 2002.
I hope that answers the question.
In return we have a question for you, the listeners. You still have almost a week to answer our September competition question:
"What is the connection between the word pistol, (as in handgun) and Czech music?"
If you think guns and music are worlds apart, think twice in this case. If you're clueless, just try looking in any good dictionary.
Please, send your answers to us by the end of September to the usual address, Radio Prague, English Section, 12099 Prague, Czech Republic, or much quicker by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. There is a CD of Czech music waiting for the winner.
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