By Peter Stevenson
THE number of road deaths on the island have been halved since 2003 but 78 per cent of those killed since then might still be alive today if they had used seat-belts or helmets, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said yesterday.
“Road traffic accident death tolls over the last ten years amount to the size of a small community like Agros or Lefkara,” he said.
He said the government was planning to adopt a new system of tackling road related problems in the near future. So far this year there have been 20 fatal accidents with 22 people losing their lives. For the whole of 2012 there were 23 fatal accidents and 23 dead.
Speaking at the 15th annual seminar for road safety in Nicosia, Nicolaou said the most worrying statistic was that the majority of those killed were not wearing seat-belts or helmets and were under the age of 25.
“Up to 78 per cent of deaths on the road in the last ten years could have been prevented if people had been wearing a seat-belt or a helmet,” said Nicolaou.
“Police spend at least 120 days a year on campaigns on informing people the importance of wearing them,” he added.
Nicolaou said that the police’s new policy of warnings and observations had been in operation for the last ten days in place of cautioning and aggressive policing.
This year’s seminar is being organised by the justice ministry and the police traffic department in cooperation with the ministries of transport and education.
Transport Minister Tasos Mitsopoulos said that 2012 was a very good year for road safety in the EU as there was a nine per cent decrease in the number of deaths.
According to the Road Safety Pin Report, Cyprus recorded the second biggest decrease in road deaths in the EU between 2011 and 2012 – some 28 per cent. The year 2011 had seen an unexpected 18 per cent spike over 2010 however, and 2013 figures show there have already been 22 deaths in the first ten months.
“Despite all of the new safety measures and developments, people are unfortunately still losing their lives in road traffic accidents,” Mitsopoulos said.
“The plan is to reduce road deaths by 50 per cent by 2020 with our activities concentrating on all manner of drivers in all areas,” he said.
He added research proved that most road deaths were avoidable as the vast majority are due to human negligence or irresponsible behaviour.
The minister expressed the hope that once the new plan is implemented, Cyprus could be one of the top countries in Europe with regards to road safety.