Voluntary speed reduction call as Austria battles snow

Traffic experts have appealed to drivers to adapt their speed to the treacherous conditions they are currently confronted with across Austria.Strong snowfall has led to dozens of accidents on streets across all nine provinces last night and this morning (Weds).Six people had to be hospitalised in Vorarlberg this morning after a 28-year-old driver lost control of her car in the mountainous province’s Montafon region. The woman steered the motor against an oncoming van near Lorüns around 7am. She and all of the other vehicle’s passengers were taken to a nearby clinic to have their minor injuries examined.Drivers on the busy A23 Südosttangente and the A2 southern motorway near Vienna moved at a snail’s pace this morning as autobahn authorities struggled to clear the lanes of the more than 20 centimetres of snow that had fallen since the previous morning.An overall 50 centimetres of fallen snow were registered in Vienna – the federal capital in the country’s lowlands – since the end of last month, up by 20 centimetres from average figures. Ski resorts in the west have even more snow than they had wished for.Martin Blum of the Austrian Traffic Club (VCÖ) stressed today that cars need up to four times longer than usual to come to a standstill on snowy roads.Blum suggested motorists should halve their speed voluntarily considering the significantly longer braking distance.Motorist associations accused foreign lorry drivers of being responsible for the havoc on Austria’s motorways earlier this month and in November as they ignored federal snow chain laws. Many of the stuck trucks did not feature the essential equipment which drivers must use when roads are blanketed in snow.Vorarlberg’s Bregenzerwald region holds the record for the highest amount of snowfall so far this winter with two and a half metres. The Alps around Kitzbühel in Tyrol experienced nearly as much snow, according to meteorologists at Vienna’s Centre for Meteorology and Geodynamics (ZAMG). The weather experts stressed that such amounts were nothing unusual in western Austria – in contrast to the east of the country, which has more difficulty dealing with these conditions.Almost 1,700 workers employed by the city council are currently trying to clear the roads of Vienna from snow to ensure smooth individual traffic and public transport services.Meteorologists announced that the weekend will bring extremely low temperatures before the temperatures will rise slightly in the Christmas week. Experts at the ZAMG said many Austrian regions may not experience a white Christmas this year regardless of the current conditions.Vast parts of the country did not have any snow last Christmas when the temperature even reached 15 degrees centigrade in some lower areas.Meteorologists said that a precise forecast for conditions on Christmas Eve (24 December) would only possible at the end of this week.Meanwhile, charities and non-government organisations (NGOs) have said they are currently experiencing a “massive demand” for places to sleep in their hostels in Vienna, Graz, Linz and other cities.Caritas Vienna director Michael Landau recently stressed a donation of 50 Euros is enough to finance a so-called winter package featuring a sleeping bag and a warm meal. The humanitarian aid expert said he expected the number of people living on the streets of the city to soar this winter.