Austrians find ancient cure for modern curse

Druids have been recruited to reduce accidents on Austria's worst stretches of autobahn. The druids have erected huge roadside monoliths to restore the natural flow of "earth energy".

In a secret two-year trial the druids' massive pillars of white quartz were put up beside a notorious stretch of road. Fatal accidents fell from an average of six a year to zero.

Gerald Knobloch, who describes himself as an archdruid, used a divining rod to inspect the 300-metre stretch of the A9 in Styria to restore "earth energy lines". "I located dangerous elements that had disrupted the energy flow," he said.

"The worst was a river that human interference had forced to flow against its natural direction. By erecting two stones of quartz, each weighing more than a tonne, at the side of the road, the energy lines were restored."

Motorway authority engineer Harald Dirnbacher said authorities had turned to Mr Knobloch as a last resort. "We had put up signs to reduce speed, renewed the road surface and made bends more secure but we still kept getting accidents," he said.

"At that point we couldn't think of anything else to do and decided we might as well try anything. I admit when we first looked at it (energy lines) we were doubtful. We didn't want people to know in case they laughed at us, so we kept the trial secret and small scale. But it was really an amazing turnaround."

Scientists are sceptical but the motorway authorities are extending the druids' role across the country, paying them about $6000 for each investigation - a fraction of the cost of resurfacing a road.

"Of course, the fall in accidents could be due to something else as we are continuously repairing the roads," mused Mr Dirnbacher.