Road Administration: Two fatal crashes caused by unmaintained roads

Traffic accidents have claimed ten lives in the first month alone of 2018.
Traffic accidents have claimed ten lives in the first month alone of 2018. Source: (Rene Kundla/ERR)

The Estonian Road Administration admitted that in the case of two fatal traffic accidents last month, road maintenance was either incomplete or had not been done at all.

According to the police in Estonia, the main causes of fatal traffic accidents include travel speeds not adjusted to road conditions, incorrect driving techniques, and general disregard for oneself as well as those sharing the road.

All aforementioned factors aside, however, the police admitted that people are flawed, but infrastucture should and must forgive such flaws, and roads need to be maintained.

"We have found that, mostly in the case of accidents involving two deaths, we can discuss the responsibility of road maintenance and the road's compliance with road condition requirements," said Estonian Road Administration director general Priit Sauk, adding that in the remaining cases, there actually weren't any issues with road conditions.

"You definitely cannot say that the road has not been maintained," he continued. "Once again, generally speaking, road maintenance has begun their work on time, as shown in our analysis. They have occasionally, however, run late reaching each point. This was the case, for example, last Wednesday, when two accidents occurred in a row on Tallinn-Tartu Highway, where we will admit that road maintenance went wrong."

Road maintenance checking itself

Following these crashes, the Estonian Road Administration discussed required grip factor, which led to the question of who, how and when this grip factor is even being measured.

"Physically, the Road Administration is definitely not on Estonian roads 24/7, measuring grip factor," Sauk explained. "First and foremost, this responsibility currently rests via their contracts with road maintenance; they are obligated to ensure adequate friction on our highways."

Thus the "I'll maintain and measure the roads myself" situation is born. A vivid example of road maintenance is April 13 last year, when road conditions were so poor on Tallinn-Tartu Highway during a storm that the police considered temporarily shutting down a primary highway just to try to save lives.

"Traffic is complex — a person, their vehicle and the road," explained traffic attorney Indrek Sirk. "We can be happy about the fact that vehicles have improved and, thanks to this, there are fewer deaths. The primary problem in traffic is still the one located between the driver's seat and the wheel, but it is also pretty clear that in such changing weather conditions, the state should be doing more, but is clearly unable to handle doing so. And in such a situation, the only option we have is to defend ourseves; we are alone on the battlefield."

It is not worth seeking the truth from statistics, he added. "We are counting bodies, but last year we had an exceptionally good year — doctors did good work," Sirk noted. "We can see today that people have not been so lucky, as a result of which we have more bodies as well. We should actually be tallying the seriously injured, which we currently don't know how to do."

Each snowfall means more fatalties

"Every time it snows, at least one person loses their lives on the road," said Police and Border Guard Board (PPA) chief law enforcement officer Sirle Loigo. "Dear road user — before you get behind the wheel, consider whether you are doing everything you can to ensure that you are not the next victim."

Editor: Aili Vahtla

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