Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Tough New Traffic Law. Traffic Deaths Double in 10 Years.

After 80 highway deaths in January due to multiple egregious bus accidents involving high speeds,
negligence, poorly maintained buses, and alcohol President Evo Morales has announced that he will make a Presidential decree ordering harsh penalties for traffic violations. In addition to pressing charges against bus drivers and other drivers who are drunk, sleepy, unlicensed or in violation of other laws, this decree will also hold the police responsible if they allow a drunk driver past their checkpoint. Vice Minister of Transportation José Kinn announced that among the new penalties, any driver found over the legal alcohol limit will have their license revoked for life. In addition to a lifetime prohibition for drunk drivers, the new law will reinforce the government's right to temporarily suspend the operating license of any company whose driver is found to be drunk and to press criminal charges against the owners of companies whose drivers are found drunk. Kinn also spoke about harsh penalties for police that don't enforce traffic rules such as proper use of turn signals and emergency breakdown signals. Traffic police in Bolivia are very low paid and are sometimes corrupt however despite all the problems of bad roads and bad driving, Bolivia has a traffic death per capita rate only slightly higher than that of the US and Europe.

According to the National Institute of Statistics in 2008, there were 39,814 traffic accidents that result in 1,248 deaths and 13, 309 injured, figures that have all doubled since the year 2000. This gives Bolivia a traffic death rate of 13.5 per 100,000 people, slightly higher than the US rate of 12.3 per 100,000 and and Europe 11 per 100,000 with Britain scoring best at just 5.9 per 100,000. Africa ranked as the most dangerous region with 26 per 100,000. Since 2001 when Bolivia instituted SOAT the Mandatory Crash Insurence program, the insurance program has paid out to 11,946 injured and killed persons some $62 million dollars.

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