Road accidents in Colombia accounted for three times as many deaths as the nation’s ongoing internal armed conflict in 2009, according to a Colombian road safety organization.
Director of the “League Against Road Violence” Mary Bottagisio told EFE that nearly 6,000 people died on Colombia’s roads last year and that it was important to raise awareness of the serious problem.
Bottagisio said that Colombia had 5,973 road deaths in 2009, compared with 2,900 deaths in Spain. However, Spain has 600,000 kilometers of roads, while Colombia has just 50,000.
The director pointed to the success of Spain which has reduced the number of fatalities on its roads from 8,000 to under 3,000 in eight years through campaigns and government action.
“In Colombia it is believed that the Spanish are more civilized than us. Lie … they drink, they do not respect traffic rules. It is not a matter of genetics, it is political will,” said Bottagisio.
Bottagisio said that many road deaths in Colombia involved economically disadvantaged sections of society.
“Those who die on the roads here are mainly from the poorer classes. Imagine the situation of the families who lose the father and then usually the mother has to take care of everything,” she said.
Tougher laws and more stringent enforcement were key to reducing the number of deaths, according to Bottagisio.
“As Europe says all urban areas must have a maximum speed of 50 kilometers per hour, we have reached 80, while on the Spanish motorways people drive a maximum of 120 kilometers per hour, we are allowed 140.
“Reckless driving is a scourge comparable to crime, it is important to promote respect for the rule and driver education,” she said.