The economic crisis crippling Portugal has had at least one silver lining: deaths from traffic collisions are way down. People can’t afford gas and they can’t afford the new tolls, so they’re staying off the roads. Fewer cars = fewer collisions.
I can personally attest to the lack of cars on the Algarve’s main motorway, the A22, since the tolls went into effect. Every time we drive it (which is quite a bit less than we used to; we’re avoiding it like everyone else), I keep thinking of those post-apocalyptic movies where the protagonists drive their car down an utterly empty freeway. When we returned from Lisboa a few weeks back, I counted a grand total of 11 cars in either direction for the 15 miles (24 km) that we were on the A22.
Our local paper says that annual road fatalities for the Algarve were down 30% from the previous year, and 15% for Portugal as a whole. Total road deaths have now dropped to a level not seen since 1960. The paper also noted that another difference between now and then is that while there are over six million cars on the Portuguese roads today, in 1960 that number was around 200,000.
I look at those numbers and think, holy moly, driving was dangerous in 1960!
Which brought to mind a video my dad sent, showing a crash test between a 1959 Chevrolet Bel Air and a 2009 Chevrolet Malibu. Those old cars looked solid, but they were death traps. I’ll stick with our little Honda and its airbags, and continue to enjoy occasional trips on the toll road. These days I think the A in A22 stands for Apocalyptic.