Since 2004, the Spanish Government has implemented several measures to reduce traffic injuries in Spain. Now a new study led by researchers from Catalonia reveals that toughening up legislation by criminalising risky behaviour helps to reduce the number of collisions on Spanish roads.
"The reform of the Penal Code has noticeably reduced the number of drivers involved in collisions resulting in injury and also the number of people injured in such accidents," explains Ana M. Novoa, leading author of the study published in the Bulletin of the World Health Organization and a researcher at the Agencia de Salud Pública de Barcelona (ASPB).
The research, which employs information from the databases of the Dirección General de Tráfico (DGT), reveals that 1,668,889 drivers suffered collisions that resulted in injury over the period dating from 2000 to 2009. Most drivers (78.7%) were male, 70.7% of whom were between 18 and 44 years of age.
The data confirm that risk has been reduced to a greater extent on non urban roads and among male drivers under the age of 30 and motorcycle or moped riders.
More specifically, the reform of the Penal Code avoided 3,361 male drivers (which would imply a reduction of 7.2% in regard to forecasts) being seriously injured in road traffic collisions. As regards female drivers, the reduction was smaller, although 856 women escaped serious injury as a result of the reform.
"Regulation of traffic behaviour is an essential part of road safety policy. Changes in the legislation that impose stricter penalties for traffic offenses can increase the deterrent effect of the law, particularly in the case of drivers who are less likely to pay attention to less strict measures such as speeding fines or the penalty points system, Novoa concludes.
A huge problem
Despite a certain downward trend, in 2009 alone some 127,680 people were injured and 2,714 lost their lives in collisions in Spain. The number of accidents has been decreasing since 2004, when priority was given to road safety through the road traffic policies implemented. However, speeding and drunk driving percentages remain high.
Previous research conducted by the same authors shows that these regulations have reduced injuries to male drivers by 9% and to female drivers by 11% in Spain. Furthermore, since the penalty points system came into force in July, 2006, the number of male and female drivers injured in traffic accidents has fallen by 11% and 12% respectively.
The reform of the Spanish Penal Code came into force on December 1st, 2007 in order to toughen up the penalties for serious traffic offenses. Such penalties include prison sentences of up to five years for reckless driving putting the lives of ordinary people at risk to six months for driving without a licence or one year for refusing to take an alcohol level test.
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