Chaos on A1 Motorway Due to Wildfire: Traffic Regulation, Not an Oversight?

By 22 August 2017

Who is responsible for the chaos on A1 motorway near Benkovac, which happened yesterday, August 21, due to raging fires in Zadar area?

The fire that hit the Zadar area on Sunday and which spread around Ravni Kotari caused chaos on the A1 highway near Benkovac yesterday, August 21, 2017, reports At one point, out of fear, a few dozen drivers turned their cars around and started driving in the opposite direction!

"Most likely, these were the people who were at rest stops at the time the road got closed. People also turned around when they came across long queues, moved to the hard shoulder of the motorway and drove back," said Nedjeljko Prskalo, the head of the HAC's maintenance department, whose statement is somewhat understated when compared to the photos posted by drivers on Monday which clearly show that the state on the A1 motorway near Benkovac was out of control. All the drivers who were driving to Benkovac turned their vehicles around and headed back in the opposite direction towards Pirovac by driving not just in the hard shoulder but in both traffic lanes as well.

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According to the information provided by the HAC spokesperson, Andrea Haleuš, the highway was closed for the first time from Benkovac to Pirovac at 9:50 A.M. and from Zadar II - Šibenik at about 11 A.M, on Monday, August 21. Shortly thereafter, the state road D27 Benkovac - Stankovci got closed for traffic.

"The state of the fire on the highway was somewhat chaotic in terms of the columns that formed at the Šibenik junction where the column was about three kilometres and at the Zadar II where the column was about eight kilometres long. There was also a big queue of vehicles near Pirovac, which was about nine kilometers long," said Prskalo adding that there was no fear that the fire might approach the cars, which is contrary to the photographs taken by the citizens, where it is clearly visible that the fire came very close to the highway near Benkovac.

An explanation for the chaotic situation on A1 between Benkovac and Pirovac was requested from the Zadar police who, together with the HAC staff, supervised the traffic throughout the day. Spokesperson Elis Žodan told us [Zadarski list] that the police did not turn the drivers in the opposite direction at Benkovac but that it was done by the HAC staff.

"It was not an oversight. Redirection of drivers to drive in in the opposite direction was instructed by HAC employees to ensure road safety. It was a traffic regulation and not an oversight," said Žodan, adding that the media should stop spreading lies via their web portals and social media.

"You are spreading panic, and you, as media, are as equally responsible as we are because both of us work in the service of the public," said a spokesman for the Zadar police.

Yesterday around 4 P.M., due to the fire on the A1 motorway, Benkovac, Pirovac and Zadar II toll stations raised the ramps and suspended the toll collection.

"In agreement with the Traffic Police and the Department for Road Traffic Safety, due to the high number of fires near the A1 motorway, in order to protect the safety and health of our users, and to speed up the exclusion of users from the motorway, Croatian Motorways and and Maintenance and Toll Collection of Croatian Motorways have made the decision to lift the ramps, i.e. to suspend the toll collection at Pirovac, Benkovac and Zadar II toll stations", reports HAC section for maintenance and toll collection, adding that their users were not jeopardized by open fire on the highway and that this decision was made due to thick smoke and poor driving conditions.


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