Cyprus Mail
Our View

Action not words to clamp down on traffic violations

WE have been hearing the authorities, for years, saying that tougher penalties should be imposed on drivers in order to make our roads safer. The tougher penalties never materialise, probably, because they are widely unpopular and politicians fear they would lose votes.

Instead, every few months the police announce road safety campaigns, a clampdown on drunk driving and crackdown on speeding.

While the assorted clampdowns lead to more people being booked, they do not have any significant effect on improving road behaviour and restricting traffic violations because the penalties imposed are not harsh enough to act as a deterrent. It has become apparent that in Cyprus the only real deterrent is big fines. Drivers would only respect the traffic laws if failure to do so carried a big cost.

This was the conclusion of a study by a professor at the University of Cyprus that was presented earlier in the week. Did we need an academic study to point out the blatantly obvious? It would have served its purpose only if it persuades the authorities to introduce tougher penalties. The study was presented to Justice minister Ionas Nicolaou who admitted that traffic offences were not adequately addressed by existing measures. “Inadequate penalties and the lack of immediate implementation do not act as a deterrent,” he said.

Well, it was about time the authorities made this discovery, which has been painfully obvious to anyone with common sense. The reality is that the authorities have been very complacent with regard to road safety. The last drastic measure they took was the introduction of penalty points which lead to a driving ban once a driver has amassed 12. Since then, there was the brief experiment in 2007 with the traffic cameras, which were scrapped after a few months because of a dispute between the government and the contractor. Accidents had fallen by 14 per cent in the brief period they were in operation.

For the last ten years two administrations have somehow failed to have these installed, several tenders’ procedures having been declared null and void. Is bureaucratic incompetence so great or is it that the politicians were not keen on having traffic cameras installed, because they were unpopular? The government has promised cameras would be installed this year, but nobody would bet on it, considering presidential elections are just a year away.

Interestingly, Engomi municipality had two cameras installed to stop late night racing on Grivas Dighenis Avenue, but the mayor ended up wanting them switched off during the day because they were recording ‘ordinary citizens’ exceeding the speed limit and they would call to complain because they were fined. This goes some way in explaining why governments have been avoiding installing traffic cameras. They do not want ‘ordinary’ citizen-voters being booked for speeding or driving through a red light.

Ionas said all the right things this week about increasing penalties and giving police more tools to force drivers to comply with traffic laws. Now we need to see some action.

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