The recent tragic case of a Czech policewoman killed by a hit-and-run driver high on drugs has led to calls for stricter rules that would keep repeat offenders off the road. The man responsible for the officer’s death had been behind the wheel despite having received an incredible 11 driving bans. The authorities are now considering measures to prevent such cases from happening again – but also warn of a steep increase in the number of Czechs caught driving under the influence of drugs.
During a routine road check last Friday night, a police patrol in the central Bohemian town of Brandýs nad Labem attempted to pull over a car with three people in it. However, the driver ignored the officers’ signals and drove off. A little later, another patrol attempted to stop the car – but the driver ran into a 36-year-old police woman, fatally wounding her. The officer, a mother of two, died of her injuries in a Prague hospital the next day.
The 22-year-old driver, who was arrested shortly afterwards, was found to be under the influence of methamphetamine, a relatively common drug in the Czech Republic. The police also said he had been banned from driving 11 times in the past.
On Monday, the police in Brandýs nad Labem arrested another driver – also under the influence of the drug – after he backed into a parked car. The officers were astonished to discover that he had been one of the passengers riding in the car that killed the police woman just two days previously.
Traffic police officers across the country wore black ribbons on their uniforms on Tuesday in honour of their late colleague. But the case has also sparked a debate about stricter sanctions for drivers on drugs and repeat traffic offenders.
The minister of the interior, Milan Chovanec, told Prima TV on Sunday that the government would consider setting up a central registry of offences. Originally proposed as a tool to curb petty crime, the registry would allow the authorities to keep track of all traffic offences committed by any driver. If a driver commits the same offence repeatedly, sanctions would increase by up to 50 percent.
Some experts also say the police and other authorities should be stricter in enforcing existing rules. For instance, only a few offenders have had their cars confiscated despite the fact that Czech law provides such an option.
However, officials also warn that in recent years the number of drivers caught under the influence of drugs has risen dramatically. Last year 450 such cases were registered in the Karlovy Vary region alone, said Mr. Chovanec; the figure so far this year is already 240.