Thursday, October 19, 2006

Drunk Drivers Cause Alarm in Chile

Death of three students after illegal race shocks the country

Even if Chile was the first South American country to make the use of seat belts obligatory in 1984 , the death toll caused by car crashes is not diminishing. On September 28 at 2.30 a.m., three university students were killed instantly as the car in which they were riding crashed in one of Santiago's high speed expressways. According to witnesses and the vigilance cameras of the "Costanera Norte Highway", the youngsters attempted to enter the route at a very high speed. In a TV interview, a security guard said that he saw the white sports car racing in the streets with another unidentified car as they headed towards the highway entry lane. The vigilance cameras of "Costanera Norte" filmed the car as it overpassed other cars at speeds of over150 kilometers per hour. The youngsters tried to enter the expressway at nearly 100 kph in a curve where the speed limit was 60 kph. The driver, that has been identified as Javier Carracedo (20) lost control of the car that was lifted two meters in the air and ended its trajectory against a signpost. Carracedo was ejected from the front window and ended 50 meters in front of the car. The other two young men, Ignacio Leay and Armando Olavarria , both 20 years of age, died instantly from head traumatism. The police report stated that "Carracedo was driving under the influence of alcohol (D.U.I) and at an irresponsible and reckless speed." The police found several bottles of alcoholic drinks inside the car and registered that the needle in the tachometer was at 148 kph. According to press reports, Carracedo had been arrested in December 2005 for drunk driving, and at the time of the crash did not carry his driving license or car documents.
The pattern seems to be the same as youngsters from the richer Chilean families are given powerful sports cars by their parents (as is the case of these three young men), which they use during weekends to drive around the cities at high speeds. Frequently the youngsters are under the influence of drugs and "Pisco", a local spirit that is similar to Vodka and that has alcohol levels of between 35° to 45° proof. Police statistics show that nearly forty percent of those killed in car crashes are in the 18 to 30 age group and under the influence of alcohol.
Last year, 1626 Chileans were killed as a result of careless driving. During the past "Independence Day" holidays from 16 to 19 September, 40 people were killed in the highways and roads of the country. The most frequent causes of the crashes were D.U.I and reckless driving.
The latest craze among youngsters is "car tuning", whereby normal streetcars are customized in order to reach higher than normal speeds in order to compete with other cars at illegal races held during the weekends. The craze began after the exhibition of an American movie called "Fast and Furious" and these races draw thousands of people, and until now several participants and bystanders have been killed or seriously injured. Such is the popularity of this new fashion that there is a local web page, "" where the fixture for races is published. You may see some videos of their irresponsible behavior in this website.
A related issue is the bad security record in intercity buses, which is the main type of public transport throughout the country. In May 2006, a bus fell into a river and 24 passengers were killed. The Chilean Bus Driver's Union has denounced that they are made to drive loner hours than normal, with little time to rest and poor lodging facilities during trips were frequently they must drive for hundreds and thousands of kilometers. This situation has caused many citizens to demand stricter traffic laws and control by police.

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