A couple weeks ago, my wife and three children packed into the car for our annual school “Spring Break”. No big deal, really, that it still was Winter. Just a relatively short drive to the mountains in the South West corner of the Czech Republic, and we could at least hope for snow and some much anticipated skiing. In fact there was none of the natural variety, but instead barely enough man made snow for one long run. The girls, nevertheless, managed to make the most of it, while Marie and I tended to our youngest, who at 4 months could hardly care less. After everything was said and done, the length of time spent getting there and back in the car seat was the deciding factor.
Despite the weather, conditions of the slopes, comfort of the lodging, and all other details concerning this holiday, in particular a nice visit with a friend who we hadn’t seen in some time, the overall experience was enjoyable. Up until the trip back home to Prague, it could be said that we managed a fairly happy time, without incident.
Our relaxed mood was abruptly interrupted during the drive home, on Friday evening, when another vehicle literally forced us off the road. After 14 years driving on Czech roads, I thought I was prepared for just about anything. So I thought. This near miss was a sober reminder, however, just how dangerous these roads are. More surprising was that the other driver drove a well marked tour bus containing several passengers, who were both witnesses and victims of his reckless and careless behavior.
My first response was to want to chase after this driver, to confront him directly, but with my family already terrorized enough, it was all I could do to find some quiet place to stop, where we could get out and unwind. Although I called the police immediately to report our near accident, the questions that were asked made it more than clear that nothing short of an accident was necessary for them to intercede. I had hoped that perhaps they might respond by intercepting this driver further along the road.
As I thought further about this, it seemed clear that not much has been done to discourage persons from driving as they wish. Even the adoption of a point system by a divided Czech government, was ineffective as it was seriously undermined by the news only days after the adoption of the new rules that the police and government officials didn’t believe the regulations should apply to them as well.
Whatever initial positive effects were reported in the media, have sadly evaporated into even more aggressive disregard altogether. It is therefore not surprising that a disturbing number of drivers not only drive far above the posted limits, but that they do so arrogantly, and with a certain impunity from enforcement. If nothing else, this disregard for the new rules, have only served to make those breaking these laws that much more confident in their status, above the law.
Thus, it is no surprise to encounter scores of reckless speeders on these road, under the circumstances, since there is a growing culture of expedience at any cost. The fact that clearly marked company vehicles would be driven in such an aggressive manner, is the evidence of this. It is therefore not only the fault of law enforcement, or lack of clear regulations, but furthermore an ethic supported by employers who willingly turn their heads on drivers who directly threaten the safety of others.
It was not my intent here to simply write an open ended complaint. I have already had my share of frustration, for example when I called the police after this near miss, they would only act if there had been an accident. Otherwise, nothing more could be done. No offer to log my complaint. No effort to re-assure me that this was out of bounds. My family and I were very nearly seriously injured, and I couldn’t even get a word to console me in my near hysterical state.
What is to be done? A letter to the tour operator? A letter to the editor of the local travel industry regulator? What indeed will make me feel safe as I set out on my next trip? It is my wish to share this experience with as many readers as possible, in an effort to inform those who plan to drive in the Czech Republic, that they do so at great risk to themselves. Furthermore, I would recommend a boycott of any agency that does not provide some mechanism for passengers, or other drivers, to report misbehavior on the part of their employers. Whether it is a taxi ride, a group tour bus, or any other company vehicle, you must have some mechanism to report such hyenas misdemeanors as reckless endangerment.
I am a tour operator myself. I make my living driving visitors from one end of this country to another. In all honesty, without strict legislation and better enforcement, it is not possible to assure visitors that they will not also be the victims of belligerence and rage on the Czech roads. If the government and business owners of the Czech Republic cannot be bothered to protect visitors who choose to drive on their roads, then you should send them a clear message by taking your business elsewhere!10 Mar