By Jay Forte, Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – The Carnival holiday had fewer accidents on Brazil’s federal highways, but the number of deaths increased, according to a report released yesterday (March 2nd) by the Federal Highway Police (PRF).
Between February 24th and March 1st, the Operation Carnival period, 1,696 accidents were registered on federal highways, a figure 5.3 percent lower than last year. However, 140 people died, 27 more than at the 2016 Carnival period.
One factor that contributed to this result was the occurrence of accidents with multiple deaths. The most tragic example was on a highway in Goiás, where eight people died in a single accident.
Only eleven accidents were responsible for 44 deaths, an average of four deaths per occurrence. Of these accidents, ten were frontal collisions, something that, according to the PRF, usually occurs as a result of undue oversteps and speeding.
“The increase in accidents with fatalities was certainly caused by the recklessness of the drivers, who created the lethal combination of illegal passing with incompatible speed,” said PRF Operational Control coordinator João Francisco Oliveira.
“No matter how good the inspection, road conditions and actions of any government body, the behavior of drivers is what makes the success or failure of any operation of ours,” he added.
According to Oliveira, however, the evaluation of the PRF is that Operation Carnival was positive. Despite the increase in the number of deaths, there was a reduction in the number of serious accidents, when there were serious injuries or death. This year, 323 serious accidents were recorded, 18.64 percent less than in 2016.
In addition, 84,800 fines were issued, more than double the 2016 Carnival period, when 41,500 tickets were issued. Of the more than 80,000 fines in the six days of this year’s operation, 2,019 were for alcohol consumption and 11,800 for illegal passing.
The increase in numbers is due to a greater rigor in the inspection and not necessarily to the greater recklessness of the drivers, according to PRF. “We positioned our teams in the most critical locations so that we would be present and available to catch the most dangerous behavior,” Oliveira said.
Adding, “I do not have the feeling there has been an increase in drinking. We have intensified the number of tests with ethylometer, aiming to get rid of drunk drivers.”
The Operação Lei Seca (Operation Dry Law) in Rio de Janeiro reported a state-wide reinforcement of inspection and awareness actions during the Carnival period.
The anti-drinking and driving law was passed in 2008 as a zero tolerance law for drivers with any measurable content of alcohol in their blood, and the operation was introduced in Rio de Janeiro in March 2009.
Expatriate living in Rio for nearly ten years, Alfonso Stefanini, has seen the Lei Seca work but shares his thoughts since it started, “The Lei Seca has certainly been a success in reducing fatalities and accidents in Brazil but I feel it could adjust certain things.”
Explaining, “Someone who has one glass of wine for dinner should not receive the same penalty as someone belligerent behind the wheel. Moreover I feel that is unjust for people who get pulled who are not intoxicated get there cars automatically towed if one of their documents are not up to date like the registry paper.”
“People should get a warning not an extremely costly penalty for a minor infraction,” Stefanini adds, speaking about the Operação Lei Seca, not other reckless driving violations.