Prague's riskiest street crossing named – and widely held traffic myths debunked

Pedestrians should be familar with road law when approaching this busy Prague 2 intersection, which features high footfall, trams, and multiple roads.

Thomas Smith

Written by Thomas Smith Published on 29.01.2024 16:18:00 (updated on 01.02.2024) Reading time: 3 minutes

New data has determined that Prague 2’s Karlovo náměstí has the country’s “most dangerous road crossing,” with one road traffic expert even comparing it to “Morocco or Italy.” Better understanding the proper rights of pedestrians and motorists when approaching Czech crossings can help reduce overall risk.

According to the Czech Association of Insurance Companies (CAP), Karlovo náměstí – a busy crossing in the center of Prague that features bi-directional trams and a cross-intersection with roads going in four different directions – has seen six traffic accidents between the start of 2022 and end-2023, totaling six injuries.

Pedestrians do not have full priority

"Pedestrians are in an unnecessary hurry here, trams run every five minutes. People don't look around when entering the road, they often run,” Czech traffic expert and driving-school owner Pavel Greiner told CNN Prima.

Referring to Czech highway law, chairman of the road-safety non-governmental organization Platform VIZE 0 (No More) Roman Budský told CNN that pedestrians in Czechia should not always expect cars at zebra crossings to stop for them. 

“It bears repeating that pedestrians having absolute priority in crosswalks is a myth,” he said. Budský also mentioned that it is “nonsense” to approach a crossing without looking around for oncoming cars. 

The campaigner for road safety also noted that drivers approaching a crossing must remember that “anyone can run into them,” and that motorists' vigilance is key.

WHAT DOES THE LAW SAY?

According to Czech Police, “a pedestrian does not have absolute right of way even at a marked crosswalk.” The police also note that a pedestrian will never have priority over trams in any case whatsoever.

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Drivers approaching zebra crossings are legally obliged to slow down to a pace where they can brake easily, should there be people near the crossing. As the Czech Road Traffic Act says: "Drivers must not endanger or restrict pedestrians who are crossing the road or are planning to do so."

Steps to ensure higher safety

To improve safety at crossings, Greiner suggests using visible red markings or taller signposts to draw attention to crossings, as well as more road signs urging approaching drivers to slow down. 

Reflective clothing can also aid pedestrians, especially in low-visibility conditions. CAP statistics show that a significant number of pedestrian accidents – one in four – occur at crossings.

Czech police also say that citizens who wish to cross a road "must use" a zebra crossing if it is within 50 meters. Failure to do this can result in a fine of up to CZK 2,000. As a tip or recommendation, they urge full pedestrian focus at crosswalks, standing near the edge of the road in clear view of the motorist. Making (or attempting to make) eye contact with the driver also helps.

The capital's high risk for pedestrians

CAP found that, in the last 13 years, Czechia has seen almost 50,000 accidents at Czechia’s road crossings, with over 1,700 deaths. 

In March 2023, a study by Accident Portal found that the bustling intersection at Prague’s I.P. Pavlova (connected by the busy Legerova and Jugoslávská streets) – complete with bi-directional trams and high pedestrian footfall – was the country’s “riskiest intersection,” which had the highest amount of accidents.

A separate September 2023 survey found that Prague outranked Paris and London as being one of the worst cities for road safety in Europe. Only Milan, Rome, and Istanbul ranked lower. It found that as many as 44 percent of Praguers did not feel safe on the roads.

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