By Laura McLean, CBC News LISBON, Portugal — It was a Saturday afternoon in the early hours of May 15, 2013, and Elizabeth Pimentel was just about to head out of the small Portugal town of Oporto to get ready for a day at the mall.
It was her first day at Lincoln High.
The 23-year-old from New Orleans, who was studying to be a lawyer, had just finished reading her first book.
She was headed home on her way to buy the clothes she needed.
She had spent the day shopping at a small department store in Lisbon.
That was her way of saying goodbye.
But then, as she approached the checkout counter, something went horribly wrong.
As Elizabeth approached, she felt something bump against the side of her head.
She turned to see a girl on the floor, crying, she says.
“I was shocked,” she recalls.
Elizabeth called her mother to find out what happened.
The woman who brought her to the store was shocked as well.
Elizabeth and her mother were not only shocked, but also shocked they never expected to be on the receiving end of such an incident.
“That’s the first time I’ve ever experienced something like that,” says Elizabeth.
“We had a lot of tension in our family.
She felt like I had to do something, so she came over and started crying.”
Elizabeth was not alone.
A few hours earlier, a 15-year old student at a nearby public school had been seriously injured in a similar incident.
Elizabeth says her mother told her to “stay calm, don’t get angry,” but her eyes were bloodshot.
Elizabeth’s mother, a teacher, says she felt like she was in a trance.
“At first I didn’t want to believe it, but when I saw the girl on her side, I was convinced she was seriously hurt,” says Pimenteel.
Pimentes mother says her daughter was walking with a friend, but her friend turned around and saw a girl lying in the road, and started screaming.
The girl, who is not her daughter’s age, went to a nearby bus station to report the incident.
When she was eventually brought to the police station, she was arrested and charged with a first-degree felony, first-class misdemeanor.
The teen was not injured.
But Elizabeth says the incident changed her family.
“It’s not just my daughter, but all the kids that come to our school,” she says, adding that the incident is still hard on them.
Elizabeth was just one of the many students in Portugal that day who were shocked by what happened that day.
As the first week of summer approaches, the number of people killed by road accidents in Portugal has soared by 60 per cent over the past decade, with the country ranked number one for the most road-related fatalities per capita in Europe.
That is despite the country’s relatively light traffic regulations, strict traffic enforcement, and strict rules on distracted driving.
While the number and type of fatalities has dramatically increased, the true extent of the problem is hard to say.
Portugal’s traffic system has always been very difficult to navigate, and while many of the major road accidents have been attributed to drivers taking to the roads for recreational purposes, there have been many more instances of people being killed.
In the past year, the National Transportation Authority, which has responsibility for the countrys road safety, has reported the deaths of more than 3,000 people, more than double the number recorded last year.
And while the number killed by the police or by other forms of transportation have decreased in recent years, the figures are still high.
The official figures are hard to come by because the numbers have been so low, according to the UN, the countryís largest international civil society organization.
The International Federation of the Red Cross has a good record of counting the number, but says it does not provide any figures for the number who have been killed on Portuguese roads in the past five years.
Portugal has also been named one of Europes top five countries to die on the roads, according the World Health Organization, but a recent study by the University of Oxford in the UK suggests the number may be much higher.
There have been reports of cars speeding and driving on the wrong side of the road at high speed.
A police spokesperson said the figures in Portugal are hard for them to verify because they only count traffic accidents and do not include deaths caused by road rage.
But the numbers are not being kept under wraps because of a law that limits police officers to use lethal force if they believe they are being attacked or threatened.
It is the same law that governs police forces across Europe, and has been the target of protests in many countries.
The law, which was passed in 2010 and took effect in 2011, requires that all police officers must wear body cameras.
But it also states that they are not allowed to use force against an individual who “has