By Constantinos Psillides
OVER 2,000 traffic violations were recorded last weekend by two fixed speed cameras installed on Grivas Dhigenis avenue in Nicosia.
Deputy head of the Electromechanical Services Department (ESD) Loucas Timotheou said that no one would be prosecuted or fined, for now. He said the big number of violations was indicative of driving behaviour and made the use of traffic cameras an imperative. The cameras were installed last Friday.
The avenue is regularly used as a race strip by young drivers, especially over the weekends, sparking the outrage of residents.
Although the cameras are fully operational, police have not yet put them officially in use. Police officers are currently receiving training in operating the speed camera software.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides refrained from specifying exactly when the cameras will be put into service.
Timotheou told the Cyprus Mail that the weekend traffic violations caught by the cameras could add up to €100,000 in fines. “Of course, it’s not about the money. It’s about protecting people and making drivers obey traffic laws,” he said.
The specific cameras are unrelated to the national network of electronic eyes that are expected to be re-deployed in the not too distant future after nearly a decade of remaining idle.
The ESD deputy head told the Mail that by the end of July the Communications Ministry will be putting together a tender, aiming to have the new set of cameras up and running by February 2015.
Timotheou underlined that the camera network, with the exception of the pair installed in Grivas Dighenis, will be run by a private contractor. Upon registering a violation, the contractor will notify police, who in turn will issue a fine and locate the offender.
The ESD official added that his department has suggested to police that cameras shouldn’t consider stopping over the stop line at traffic lights a violation.
“This is an extremely common occurrence and doesn’t affect traffic to a major degree. We suggested that it shouldn’t be considered a violation. We are waiting to hear what the police have to say on the matter,” Timotheou said.
Blocking a pedestrian crossing will still be considered an offence. What the ESD is going for is for drivers not to be fined when they stop their vehicles anywhere before the crossing and the traffic light stop line.
The ministry will also decide by the end of the week on how the private contractor should benefit from the fines issued. The contractors will either be paid a fixed amount or receive a percentage of the fines collected as payment.
“There are about 15 companies that can undertake this contract. We asked all of them on how they would prefer to be paid and we will include it in the tender. We have to make it profitable for the companies or else nobody will show interest,” explained Timotheou.
The plan is for the camera network not to cost anything to the taxpayer. The contractor would pay for the equipment and installation.
Installing traffic cameras dates back almost a decade. After heated debates, mainly focused on personal data protection, a network was set up in 2006 but was quickly discarded. The cameras had numerous problems, including failure to store photographs and extensive bureaucracy that in some cases resulted in fining a person twice for the same violation while letting others go unpunished.
The cameras were taken down in 2007 and in 2008 it was announced that new cameras would be put up by 2010. In 2011 the Tender Review Board challenged the specifications outlined in the process and cancelled the government’s plan for the fifth time. Failing to find a way of effectively setting up the system, the government decided to outsource the venture to a private firm.