Written by Markéta Dvořáková
for The Bridge magazine
“This article first appeared in The Bridge, a monthly publication of the International Women´s Association of Prague. See www.volny.cz/iwap for more information.”
Effective July 1, 2006, new traffic regulations have become effective throughout the Czech Republic. These new rules include significant changes that concern all who drive in the Czech Republic. To keep you informed, I list below some of the major responsibilities of drivers.
· All motor vehicles must display their lights at all times – night and day, all year long. This is a new rule!
· A child weighing less than 36 kg or whose height does not exceed 150 cm must be placed in a specialized child´s safety-seat with full retaining system.
· All cyclists up to 18 years of age must use protective helmets.
· A driver must indicate a change of lanes when overtaking a bicycle, even if he does not change lanes. Put on your indicator – blinker -when you approach a cyclist. If the cyclist is on your right, put on your left indicator.
· The use of an indicator/blinker is not permitted when entering the roundabout – only when exiting.
· A zero blood-alcohol limit for drivers continues to be in effect; that means that a driver should imbibe no alcohol whatsoever. Choose a designated driver, or use a taxi.
· The driver of a motor vehicle as well as all passengers in the vehicle, including people in the back seats, must have their seat belts fastened.
· Telephoning is prohibited – the driver cannot hold a mobile telephone or any other calling device in his hands when driving. Phoning with the use of a hands-free set is permitted.
· Pedestrians have the right of the way at crossings, with the exception of trams. Trams have the right of way. A pedestrian must not step into a crosswalk in front of a tram with the expectation that the tram will stop.
· Documents: The driver is obliged to show a driver´s license, a vehicle registration certificate, and a document proving statutory motor third-party insurance. The driver can be also requested to show proof of identity through a citizen´s ID card or a passport.
The new traffic rules also involve a new method of penalizing errant drivers. The so-called “point system” for rating drivers has been adopted. When a driver accumulates 12 or more points for traffic infractions, he or she will lose driving authorization for one year in the Czech Republic. This regulation is valid for both Czech and foreign citizens! Driving without offenses for a one-year period will result in a return (or reduction) of 4 points against the total.
Examples of Penalties and Fines
· Driving without legal authorization or refusing to take the test for alcohol or drug control will result in a penalty of 7 points, as well as a fine ranging between Kč 25 000 – 50 000. There is also the possibility of losing one´s driving license for 1 – 2 years.
· An alcohol level exceeding the limit (0.3 percent per milliliter) results in a 6-point penalty and a fine between 10 – 20 000 Kč. Again, one can lose one´s license for up to 1 year.
· Alcohol in blood, but less than the 0.3 percent per milliliter level: 3 points and 10—20 000 Kč fine.
· Overtaking another vehicle where it is prohibited: 6 points and 5—10 000 Kč fine.
· Exceeding the speed limit of 40 km/h in town or 50 km/h outside of town, when those are the stipulated speed limits: 5 points and 5-10 000 Kč fine.
· Exceeding the speed limit of 20 km/h in town and 30 km/h outside of town, when those are the stipulated speed limits: 3 points and fine of 2500 – 5000 Kč.
· Not giving right of way to pedestrians or other vehicles: 4 points and 2500—5000 Kč fine.
· Holding a telephone while driving: 3 points and 1500 – 2500 Kč fine.
· Not using a seat belt or a child´s safety-seat, driving on tram railway, exceeding the speed limit when that limit is less than 20 km/h in town and 30 km/h outside of town: 2 points and 1500 – 2500 Kč fine.
· Driving without lights switched on: 1 point and 1500 – 2500 Kč fine.
A policeman is entitled to accept cash payment for the infraction right at the scene of the infraction up to an amount of 2500 Kč. When the fine is higher than that amount, the driver has to appear before of local authorities. The police are also obliged to ask for a bail of 5 – 50 000 Kč as a precautionary measure or even to keep the vehicle until the bail is paid. This money is refunded when the driver appears before traffic authorities.
Finally, inform your driving guest to buy and label a highway coupon to be placed on the front windshield of the car that he plans to use. He should submit the second part with a license plate number on it when called upon by a control authority to do so. When the validity of the coupon has expired, remove it form the window. Be aware that driving without the coupon or not removing the coupon when it has expired could be a costly error!
Good luck on the summer roads and do not forget to switch on your lights.