By Jean Christou
More than 60 per cent of all road accidents in Cyprus between 2012 and 2014 happened in urban areas, 4 per cent on the island’s highways and the remainder on secondary roads, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Thursday.
But when it came to actual road deaths, 38 per cent occurred in urban areas, 6 per cent on the highways, and the remaining biggest percentage on secondary roads, which indicates that though most accidents happen in cities, they are often less deadly.
Nicolaou was speaking at the second round table discussion on road safety (Pin Talk) in Nicosia. He said authorities were doing all they could to adopt the European target of 50 per cent fewer victims by 2020.
Communications, Works and Transport Minister and chairman of the Road Safety Council Marios Demetriades, who also addressed the event, said that in the past decade Cyprus had significantly reduced the number of road deaths from 117 in 2004 to 45 in 2014, a reduction of 61.5 per cent.
Drink driving is the biggest cause of death on Cypriot roads, and the vast majority of deaths occur in the under-25 age group.
Nicolaou said steps being taken by the authorities aimed at fostering awareness among road users, and especially among young people. “It is undisputed that only in very rare cases that human error can be discounted in a road accident,” Nicolaou said.
“Safety on the roads requires strict adherence to basic traffic rules by all: respecting the speed limit, driving free from alcohol and addictive substances, being conscious and responsible and respecting every other road user.”
The minister said police were conducting ongoing campaigns, particularly against drunk driving and especially on the weekends in certain high-risk areas.
“But I would like to stress that the compliance of drivers, particularly young drivers with the rules of road safety cannot be imposed only by means of punishment but also through effective enlightenment of the public at all levels and regardless of age,” he added.
A lack of experience coupled with the tendency to show off were some of the factors that increased the risk of accidents, especially among young people.
Nicolaou referred to the newly-introduced warnings system for young drivers, which offers them a chance to comply before issuing penalties next time they are caught.
“As a result, since the beginning of the year to date, 10,158 checks have resulted 1,117 warnings,” Nicolaou said.
Demetriades, spoke generally about road deaths, saying every year 1.24 million people are killed around the world and other 50 million injured, many of whom remain with permanent disabilities.
“The European Union, despite the fact that it includes countries with the best performance in the world in terms of road safety, it is still unacceptable that thousands of people lose their lives each year,” he said.
He said Cyprus’ strategic plan aims to address all key factors that cause road accidents and its implementation involved all relevant government agencies, local authorities, social institutions and NGOs.
“The most important recent measures being promoted is legislation for the control of driving under the influence of drugs and reducing the permitted alcohol limit for novice drivers, bikers, truckers and professional drivers,” Demetriades said.,
“These coordinated efforts have already caused and are expected to deliver significant results in the field of road safety.”