By Stefanos Evripidou
PARLIAMENT needs to pass the draft bill on narcotests to avoid more road deaths and serious accidents caused by the combination of alcohol and drugs, mainly cannabis, warned head of the NGO Reaction Marios Stavrou on Thursday.
Speaking at a press conference to announce the activities of European Night Without Road Accidents 2014, Stavrou called for a change of mindset but also legislation.
“It’s unthinkable that we have so many deaths from drugs in road accidents and yet still don’t have legislation for narcotests,” which remains pending in parliament, he said.
According to a Eurobarometer, 56 per cent of Cypriots do not know the legal alcohol limit for driving, while the latest data shows that the main cause of over 40 per cent of road deaths in Cyprus is driving under the influence, he said.
The NGO head noted EU data from 2010 which showed that Cyprus carried out on average 217 alcohol tests per 1,000 residents, with 5.3 per cent of those tested showing they were over the driving limit, compared to the EU average of 0.7 per cent.
Cyprus will take part for a seventh year in the annual Europe-wide awareness campaign to highlight the risks of drink-driving. Around 170 volunteers will stand outside nightclubs in Nicosia and Limassol this Saturday night until the early hours of the next morning, encouraging designated drivers to take a voluntary alcohol test on leaving the club.
Those who stick to their pledge and do not drink will win a symbolic prize, while for those who drink, efforts will be made in collaboration with the drivers’ friends to convince them not to drive.
Traffic police chief Yiannakis Charalambous said drink-driving was the number one cause of road deaths.
From the start of the year until September 30, over 820,000 alcohol tests were carried out in Cyprus, and 5,713 drivers charged.
Just under a third of those found to be driving under the influence, 30.4 per cent, (1,734 drivers) were under the age of 25, he said.
The communications ministry’s permanent secretary Alecos Michaelides noted that last year recorded the lowest number of road deaths in Cyprus since 1960. The number of deadly road accidents dropped by nearly 20 per cent in 2013 compared to the year before, while road deaths saw a 13.7 per cent decrease, he said.
The EU aim is to reduce road deaths by 50 per cent by 2020, noted Michaelides.