The authorities are looking at new means of clamping down on reckless, drunk or aggressive drivers, known in the Czech press as ‘pirates of the road’. On Tuesday, the country’s ministers of the interior and justice announced they had launched a review into how reckless drivers were most often sentenced when found guilty, as well as whether their vehicle was confiscated. The idea is to test whether existing legislation is too lenient and – if so – to introduce tougher measures.
Most Czech motorists, at one time or another, have experienced it: a vehicle zooming up behind them well-over the speed limit, its driver hysterically flashing the headlights in warning to get out of the way. In the best case scenario, such incidents lead to nothing more, and are not followed up by accidents or additional road rage. But what about in cases where minor damage is incurred or injury suffered? And what happens when repeat offenders are not deterred from treating major highways or even busy city streets like their personal playgrounds?
The countries’ interior and justice ministers want to come forward with a new answer and for reckless drivers to know that if they continue down that path, they could soon face tougher sanctions. Repeat offenders could see their vehicles seized immediately, as in the region of Ústí, where police reportedly do so with regularity. The interior minister also wants to send a tough message by strengthening traffic police numbers. On Tuesday, here’s what Interior Minister Milan Chovanec had to say:
“We will weigh whether existing legislation is enough and if we find it isn’t come forward with our own proposal.”
Currently, getting problem drivers off the road is a difficult proposition; the question is whether it needs to be. According to a Czech TV report, all too often courts are lenient in their rulings and aggressive motorists are back on the road in no time, when instead they could have received bans on driving keeping them off the road for several years. In current practice, the public broadcaster learned, dangerous drivers rarely receive tough sentences, seeing jail time, for example, usually only when there was an injured party and the charges were more serious. The aim here is to persuade aggressive drivers – as ticking time bombs – into changing their ways before it is too late and another innocent person is maimed or lose their life.
Justice Minister Helena Válková has stressed she will call regular meetings with higher-instance court representatives to discuss lower court decisions: presumably, to make sure repeat offenders aren’t slipping through the cracks. Justice Minister Helena Válková:
“We will invite representatives of the higher courts who can react to decisions taken by lower-instance courts.”
The review ordered by the ministers is due in September; they will decide only after the results are in whether an amendment to current traffic laws is needed or whether existing laws should only be more conscientiously applied.