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Spanish transport police 'take action'

Tue 10th Aug 2010

Spain's transport police are letting off motorists with warnings for certain ofences, as opposed to issuing fines as a result of a dispute over a pay cut.

This unofficial action is raising concerns as to whether road safety in Spain is being placed under jeopardy as one of Europe's top tourism destinations. The number of traffic deaths recorded last weekend alone (26) was the highest recorded for the year so far.

June, when government salaries were slashed by 5% as part of the austerity program, the number of traffic tickets handed out by patrol officers plummeted by 50% compared to the same period in 2009, according to figures released by the Civil Guard highway department.

Statistics for July are still to be issued but news reports suggest that the go-easy policy has continued.

The traffic police have officially admitted they are going easy on drivers, and the chief of Police has even admitted that this is happening.

An unnamed official with the Independent Civil Guard Association, said how the protest began spontaneously after the pay cut was announced, and then spread.

The 10,000-strong Civil Guard traffic department was already annoyed because its officers earn less than other police forces in Spain - their salaries run from 1,300 to 1,500 a month - and have still not seen the extra staff promised by Prime Minister Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero.

Back in April the department issued a money saving memo urging officers to use their radios more, rather than mobile phones, and spend more time parked watching for traffic offences instead of being on patrol all the time.

The pay cut seems to have been the last straw, said the association official.

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