SOFIA (Reuters) – Bulgarians flooded social media on Monday to accuse authorities of a lax attitude to alcohol- and drug-impaired driving after a popular TV journalist was killed when his car was rammed by another vehicle running a red light at high speed.
Prosecutors said Milen Tsvetkov, 53, died after the 22-year-old driver of a high-performance car struck his vehicle in the capital Sofia on Sunday, Orthodox Easter in the Balkan country.
They said the driver was under the influence of drugs and detained for 72 hours while the Sofia City Court prepared a ruling to keep him in custody pending trial. He faces a jail term of between three and 15 years if convicted.
“Tsvetkov had stopped in his car at a red traffic light and a speeding jeep crashed into it,” a witness told local media.
The social media uproar over the death of Tsvetkov, one of Bulgaria’s most prominent TV presenters, underscored growing public concern over Bulgaria’s road fatality rate, the highest in the 27-nation European Union.
A total of 623 people were killed in car accidents in 2019, and 611 deaths the previous year, Interior Ministry data show. Last year 8,482 people were injured in road accidents.
“I hope the tragic fate of Milen Tsvetkov will finally turn into a powerful signal that ruthless measures are needed against the war on the roads,” said journalist Georgi Filipov, who was severely injured in another car crash last year.
Bribes often enable Bulgarians to escape punishment for intoxication while behind the wheel. Some politicians said after Tsvetkov’s death that a crackdown was urgently needed.
“It is time to adopt a law with a minimum sentence of 20 years behind bars if you drive drunk or drugged, without a licence, for speeding or driving an illegally tuned car to the extent that you cannot control it,” said Nastimir Ananiev, leader of the opposition Volt party.
The Bulgarian government had no immediate comment.
(This story has been refiled to fix time reference to Monday in lede paragraph)
Reporting by Angel Krasimirov