This story may end well, but it started tragically. The Czech road safety organisation Drivers Association was concerned that a series of advertising billboards were putting drivers’ safety at risk along one particular stretch of road. Ten people had died there in 12 months. The Drivers Association brought the accidents to TI Czech Republic’s attention. They claimed that the billboards had been positioned closer to the motorway than Czech safety standards allow, and lacked crash-barriers. Similar boards had sprung up across the country, with the authorities’ consent.
Following up on reports that a group of politicians had signed off on the placards in exchange for discounted media coverage during election campaigning, TI Czech Republic contacted the motorway authorities, requesting a copy of the contracts made with advertising companies. But it was denied access to the full document, and given a brief summary instead.
Thanks to TI Czech Republic’s persistence, an access to information request was taken all the way to the Supreme Administrative Court, which ruled that members of the public could no longer be denied access to government contracts.
As a result, TI Czech Republic, Drivers Association and other parties involved in the case were able to inspect the contracts for the billboards, and uncovered a series of concerns. They called a meeting with the Ministry of Transport and the Road and Motorway Directorate, which undertook to terminate the contract and ensure road safety standards were strictly adhered to in the future. Since then, the Czech Minister for Transport has announced a nationwide ban on all roadside billboards.