Source AP ©

Traffic accidents down in 2006

EU can achieve its target to halving its annual roadway deaths since then to 25,000 by 2010. Traffic accidents in the EU fell to less than 40,000 in 2006, the European Commission said Friday.

EU Transport Commissioner Jacques Barrot said that while the overall picture was one of safer highways, statistics show huge gaps from one country to the next in fatalities involving such factors as drunk driving, the use of seat belts and helmets and road conditions.

While cars become safer each year, "it is striking to note that the gap between the countries with the best results and those with the worst has not shrunk," said Barrot.

In the Czech Republic only 5 percent of roadway deaths involve drunk driving - the lowest rate in the EU. But in Spain, 30 percent - the highest rate - result from accidents involving at least one driver over the legal alcohol limit.

Barrot released EU-wide data showing that up to half of drivers do not observe speed limits, that the use of seat belts in the front seats varies from 67 percent in Hungary to 97 percent in France, but in the back seats from only 28 percent in Malta to 89 percent in Germany.