Sharp rise in fatal road accidents
Since the beginning of 2014, the number of road fatalities has risen sharply in Austria, with figures showing 237 people dying in vehicle-related accidents in the first six months of the year.
In the comparable period from last year, there were 190 deaths on Austria's roads, showing a 25 percent increase. In the previous year, there were 225 fatalities.
At the beginning of the summer holidays in eastern Austria, the death toll rose this past weekend again significantly.
Between Friday and Sunday, there were six fatal accidents alone in Vienna, Lower Austria and Burgenland, according to the transport ministry. At the start of the holiday season in 2013, two motorists had died.
The most fatal traffic accidents occurred in Lower Austria with 70 victims, followed by 47 in Styria and Upper Austria with 33.
"The number of deaths in the first half of the year rose in 2014 for the first time since 2007," analyzed Austrian automobile association (ÖAMTC) traffic safety expert David Nosé.
It was still too early for a detailed accident analysis, but one of the main reasons for the high death toll was certainly the mild winter in many parts of Austria, explained the auto club specialist.
Good weather and good road conditions led to a higher volume of traffic. "In fine weather and good conditions, awareness of road hazards and risks gets pushed into the background," Nosé suggested.
According to preliminary figures, 44 motorcyclists were killed in the first half of the year, compared with 36 in 2013.
"Regular training and proper equipment are essential for all bikers," said the ÖAMTC expert.
Transport minister Doris Bures (SPÖ) plans a new road safety package which would be "undoubtedly a step in the right direction".
The Traffic Club of Austria (VCÖ) pointed out that excessive speed was the main cause of fatal accidents, at around 33 percent.
One in six fatal traffic accidents occurred as the result of distraction and inattention. Therefore, the VCÖ called for increased measures for monitoring the use of mobile devices while driving, as well as the expansion of the penalty points system for using a cell phone at the wheel and speeding.
"Phone calls, SMS or Email, surfing the Internet - all that has no place while driving," said VCÖ expert Bettina Urbanek.