Romania has some of the most dangerous roads in Europe, with the highest road fatalities across the EU/EEA, according to recent statistics. The country has been grappling with this problem for years, and despite various initiatives and measures taken by the government, the issue persists.
Traffic Enforcement Cameras?
Unlike many other European countries, there's a lack of traffic enforcement cameras in Romania and this can be attributed to legal restrictions on the use of video recordings for law enforcement purposes. The Romanian Constitution and the Criminal Procedure Code prohibit the use of recordings as evidence in court unless they were obtained with the consent of all parties involved or authorised by a judge.
This legal framework makes it difficult for authorities to use traffic enforcement cameras, including those that monitor people who pass through red lights, as evidence to prosecute traffic violators. As a result, there are very few such cameras installed in the country.
The legal restrictions on video recordings are not unique to traffic enforcement. They also affect other areas of law enforcement, such as the use of CCTV cameras in public spaces. However, the impact on traffic enforcement is particularly significant, given the high number of fatalities on Romania's roads.
In recent years, there have been discussions about amending the legal framework to allow for the use of video recordings as evidence in traffic cases. However, these efforts have yet to bear fruit, and the lack of cameras continues to be a problem.
Attitudes of Drivers
Furthermore, the attitude of drivers in Romania is also a major contributing factor. Many drivers tend to speed, overtaking recklessly, and ignore traffic rules, putting themselves and others in danger. Pedestrians and cyclists are also at risk due to the poor infrastructure and lack of designated cycling lanes.
The authorities have been criticised for not doing enough to address the issue. While the government has taken some measures, such as increasing fines for traffic violations and investing in road infrastructure, many believe that these efforts are not enough. There is a general perception that the authorities are not serious about tackling the problem of road safety.
Despite the dangers, there is a reluctance among some drivers to take responsibility for their actions. Many refuse to wear seatbelts or helmets, and there is a general disregard for the rules of the road. This attitude is reflected in the number of fatalities, which is higher than any other country in the EU/EEA with a rate of 93 per one-million inhabitants being killed on the road during 2021.
Mobile Phone Usage
Another concerning trend that has emerged in Romania is the use of mobile phones while driving. Many drivers, including professional drivers such as those operating taxis and buses, use their phones while on the road, and some even live-stream their journey on social media platforms.
This behaviour is not only illegal, but it also puts the lives of the driver and other road users at risk. Using a phone while driving can distract drivers from the road and impair their ability to react to sudden changes in traffic. A devastating example, is that of Ion Nicu Onut, a 41 year old HGV driver from Romania, who crashed his truck into a car, killing 3 people, whilst looking at X-rated dating websites in the UK. He received an 8 year and 10 month sentence for causing death by dangerous driving. Research has shown that texting or using a phone while driving can be as dangerous as driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Footage from the BBC of UK Crash:
Despite the risks, many drivers continue to use their phones on the road, and the authorities have struggled to address the issue effectively.
In recent years, the government has introduced stricter penalties for using a mobile phone while driving, including fines and license suspensions. However, these measures have had limited success, and the problem persists.
Many believe that a cultural shift is necessary to promote responsible behaviour and discourage drivers from breaking the rules whilst driving, and putting lives at risk.