While Portugal in 2017 registered the second biggest rise in road deaths in the EU, with 510 people having lost their lives on the roads, last year there was no improvement; at least 512 people died in vehicle accidents and fatality figures grew for the second consecutive year. Not since 1996 had road deaths increased for two years in a row.
And while government has, on various occasions, voiced its concern over the perturbing statistics, a number of measures drawn up in recent times to improve Portugal’s shaky road safety, such as reducing speed limits within town boundaries, controlling the use of mobile phones while driving, or mandatory MOT inspections for motorcycles, have yet to make it off the drawing board.
All the afore-mentioned measures were provided for in the government’s PENSE 2020 - National Strategic Road Safety Plan, which was announced in late 2016 and decreed in 2017, but have yet to be put into practice.
The number of road deaths registered during the GNR’s 2018 ‘Tranquil Christmas’ and ‘Safe New Year’ operations – in which the patrolling of the country’s busiest roads over the festive period is boosted to crack down on dangerous driving – were both up on last year’s by more than double.
Fifteen road deaths were registered during the GNR’s 2018 ‘Tranquil Christmas’, staged from 21 to 26 December 2018, which is more than double those registered in 2017, despite the 2018 operation being one day shorter, and making it the worst outcome in a decade.
This past Christmas’s operation also saw 1,360 accidents and 29 serious injuries, all up on the previous year’s records.
The GNR’s ‘Operation New Year’ operation, staged from 28 December 2018 to 2 January 2019, tallied eight deaths – again, more than double those registered in 2017 – and eighteen serious injuries.
During the six-day nationwide New Year patrol campaign, carried out by over 3,000 officers, the GNR inspected some 37,879 drivers, having caught 1,003 drivers with excess alcohol, of whom 332 were arrested, and 93 drivers were detained for driving without a licence.
During the same period, the GNR recorded 10,015 offences.
According to newspaper, Público, experts say there is a long list of problems contributing towards the worrying downturn.
In comments to Público, José Miguel Trigoso, president of the national Road Awareness Association (Prevenção Rodoviária Portuguesa), said the festive figures are “a terrible sign”, but only the tip of the iceberg.
He stressed there is a “cocktail of reasons” that prevents Portugal from improving on its current statistic of 60 road deaths per million inhabitants, which is far above other European countries’ benchmarks, citing outdated training and lack of governmental investment as being among the main reasons.
Meanwhile, it has emerged that, despite the gloom that enshrouds Portugal’s road safety profile, more people than ever before are buying cars to drive on them.
Finance site Dinheiro Vivo reported this week that car loans conceded last year broke records and currently stands at 6.1 billion; the highest since at least 2009.
In the first nine months of 2018, Dinheiro Vivo reported, the car loan stock increased by €790 million, the highest annual surge since data has been made available.
The amounts include loans for both new and used car purchases, with more than 830,000 people in the country currently having car loans, the highest since 2011.
Between January and September 2018, the number of households with car loan debts increased by about 65,000.
However, this acceleration has obviously been of benefit to the market; a total of 182,000 new passenger cars were sold by September 2018, up 6.5 percent on the same period of the year before, according to data from the ACAP Automobile Association of Portugal.