Prague/Brno - The numerous multiple car accidents that blocked the D1 highway between Prague and Brno last Thursday were thankfully without fatalities, but enough damage was done.
According to the first estimates, over 160 vehicles were involved in incidents in both directions of the highway, with one pileup involving around 116 cars.
Authorities have estimated that around 20,000 people were trapped in the traffic jams in various places in the snowed-in Vysočina region, waiting for the roads to be cleared and opened. Recovery work continued until 3 a.m. on Wednesday, meaning over 14 hours of clean-up work.
There were 30 people injured, with six having been hospitalized in serious condition. Most of the travelers who received light injuries were treated on site by ambulance workers.
Three people are still in serious condition - a Czech woman, a 53-year-old German man, and a 58-year-old man from Slovakia - and are currently at a hospital in Brno. "All three patients are in stable condition, but have sustained serious injuries, which require long-term hospitalization," told Aktuálně.cz hospital spokeswoman Anna Nesvadbová.
What happened that day
By the latest count, 189 cars were involved in 97 accidents recorded by the police. Accidents began occuring in the morning, prompted by snowfalls and icy road conditions.
Firefighters were able to clear one lane in the direction of Brno by 6 p.m. on Thursday evening. But since weather conditions did not improve, another accident occurred on the 127th kilometer.
Detour routes were also clogged up during the day on Thursday. Many cars and trucks chose to go through Jihlava. According to the spokesman of the Jihlava town hall Radek Tulis, because of the increased number of vehicles passing through, "going through Jihlava took twice as long as normally."
Firefighters, police officers, medical staff and car-towing services were on the D1 all day. "There were 15 ambulances and three helicopters working at the accident sites," said Lukáš Kettner, head of the rescue services in the Vysočina region.
Czech railways made a public announcement during the day inviting travelers to take trains instead of driving.
Steps for the future
The stretch of the D1 highway between Prague and Brno has always been a problematic area.
Commissioner of the Vysočina region, Miloš Vystrčil, has been a long proponent of installing new electronic information boards, which according to him would markedly improve the situation.
There are a few older alert boards installed on the D1 already, but they are able to display only text, and not speed limit signs, for example. "They cannot show pictograms and foreigners do not understand them," stated Vystrčil.
He agrees that the new information system would not prevent massive accidents, like the one that happened last Thursday, but "it would keep the roads passable for a longer period of time."
There are plans to set up 15 of the new boards already this year, according the Ministry of Transportation. And the same amount will go up next year.
Vystrčil sites the success of such technologically advanced displays in Croatia, hoping that last week's highway collapse would speed up the installation process.