Three killed as traffic deaths decline

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Three people were killed in a head-on collision on one of Norway’s two-lane mountain highways during the night. The fatal crash occurred as the number of deaths on Norwegian roads otherwise has declined markedly this summer.

Norwegian and Lithuanian cars involved
The latest deadly collision occurred on state highway RV7 at Torpomoen, between Gol and Geilo. Police were first alerted at 3:49am that two cars had hit head-on and the highway, a popular route between Bergen and Oslo, was closed until 7:30am.

Police wouldn’t release the identities of those involved pending notification of kin, nor would they say whether the victims were men or women. Three were declared dead at the scene while another seriously injured person was airlifted to Ullevål University Hospital in Oslo.

One of the cars has Norwegian license plates while the other was registered in Lithuania. The cause of the crash was unknown.

Traffic deaths down 32 percent
It occurred just days after state highway officials released figures late last week showing a major decline in traffic deaths so far this summer. A total of 23 people were killed on Norwegian roads in June and July, compared to 36 traffic deaths during the same period last year. The statistics had also been encouraging for the first half of the year, when traffic fatalities fell to 63 from 93 during the first half of 2014. That amounts to a decline of more than 30 percent.

Transportation officials attribute the decline to major highway improvements in Norway after decades of neglect. Several stretches of four-lane divided highway have opened in heavily trafficked areas, replacing narrow two-lane highways where many fatal accidents had occurred, such as along the E18 highway in Vestfold and the E6 highway in Østfold. Other two-lane highways have been widened and equipped with center barriers that prevent passing, which has long been the major cause of fatal head-on collisions.

More speed control
Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK) reported Monday morning that highway officials are also introducing more speed control sytems on stretches of road viewed as especially prone to speeding and accidents. The control system extends beyond the use of single speed cameras and instead measures a driver’s average speed over a stretch of several kilometers. An expensive fine is automatically mailed to the registered owners of cars caught driving at average speeds that exceed the limit in the area.

The system, introduced in 2009, has been steadily expanded around the country and has proven to be the best means of getting drivers to slow down. It’s also a major source of irritation to many, however, and opposed by the conservative political leadership of the Transport Ministry.

NRK reported that the ministry has been overruled on the issue in Parliament, though, meaning that more such speed control systems will be introduced in several tunnels and on highways from Nordland in the north to Hedmark in the south.

Ruth Helene Myklebust, acting leader of the state highway department’s central region, told NRK that no accidents had occurred on roads around Trondheim, for example, where the system of measuring average speed had been introduced. A report from Norway’s Transportøkonomisk Institutt last year showed that it reduced deaths and injuries by as much 54 percent nationwide. Berglund