January saw terrible death toll on roads

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Officials are looking into why January 2015 saw an appalling level of carnage on Latvia's roads, with 22 people losing their lives - three times as many as in the same month the previous year, LTV reported Tuesday evening.

While weather conditions that produced prolonged periods of black ice were partly responsible, other factors such as aggressive driving and failure to take suitable precautions also played a role, officials believe.

"Carriageways should be gritted so as to avoid black ice... road service personnel are committed to take preventive or preemptive action on major roads," said Ministry of Transport road traffic department director Tālivaldis Vectirāns.

Member of parliament Janis Ādamsons expressed exasperation with the death toll, saying: "You get the feeling that it's as if autumn suddenly happens, and no-one remembers that it gets dark for longer, that visibility is poorer and that in December and January there will be winter weather conditions."

However, roads had not been adequately treated, he suggested: "In early December, I traveled to Gulbene. I should have gone on ice skates because you certainly couldn't drive!" Said Ādamsons.

Latvian Road Maintenance Chairman of the Board Vladimirs Kononovs said that according to his data the chief problem with untreated roads was one of funding and that no regulations had been broken.

"Any funding not used by 31 December disappears. We need to change the funding structure to make it more sensible," said Kononovs.

Both the state police and the Road Traffic Safety Directorate representatives stressed that drivers need to shoulder their share of responsibility too, with poor maintenance of vehicles and speeding in particular a problem.

Police this week revealed they had clocked one driver setting a new speed record on Latvian highways when a BMW 318 was caught traveling at 209 km/h on a 90 km/h stretch of the Riga-Jelgava highway.

The re-introduction of fixed speed cameras after a previous attempt to introduce them fell victim to a botched procurement process is part of the effort to reduce the speed of Latvia's drivers, who consistently feature near the top of the EU's road traffic accident statistics.   

In the first half of 2014, police issued nearly 6,500 speeding tickets using just four mobile radar speed traps.

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