A fatal traffic accident earlier this week pushed the number of deaths on the roads to the highest it’s been in two years, but the police traffic chief on Tuesday said it was hoped things would finally improve with the implementation of stiffer penalties in February.
“We know there is a very serious problem regarding fatal accidents on our country’s roads,” Chief of Traffic Police Yiannis Georgiou told the Cyprus Mail. Last year 49 people died on the roads and in 2017, the toll was 53.
The death toll on the roads became the highest in the last two years when 21-year-old Panayiotis Panayiotou became the 51st victim in 2019 on Sunday, taking Cyprus further, rather than nearer it’s target under the EU of less than 30 deaths by 2020.
And with the festive period always a peak time for accidents there are fears this year’s final number will climb in the last days of the year. The inclement weather is not helping Georgiou said.
“The reasons behind the coming days’ possible road accidents might be linked to the bad weather that is affecting Cyprus, rather than drunk driving or speeding.
“The recent storms are another reason why motorists should pay even more attention on the road.”
Despite months of delays, Georgiou said the bill outlining stiffer penalties for road offences, first submitted in March 2019, “should go to the plenum in January and by February the new laws will be implemented and effective on Cyprus’ roads.”
Penalties will be raised for hit and runs, running a red light, parking on pavements and taking parking spots reserved for disabled people in addition to speeding and drink driving.
Police will also introduce vehicle seizures, lower alcohol levels for drivers who had their licence suspended after completing 12 penalty points and enable courts to issue driving bans pending an investigation.
The bill will update penalties relating to speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving without a licence, failure to wear a seatbelt or crash helmet, and using a phone while driving.
Under the new laws, offenders face up to three months in jail or a fine up to €1,500 for driving over the limit with penalties rising according to the alcohol levels.
Reckless driving that ends up causing bodily harm will be punishable with up to three years in jail and or a fine of up to €10,000, whereas anyone involved in a hit and run with a fatality faces up to 10 years in jail and or up to €30,000.
Fines for speeding will increase from €1 per km to €5 and using a phone while driving will fetch a €300 fine instead of the current €85.
Also, a total of 110 traffic cameras will also be installed on the roads by 2020.
“We are running campaigns every month, warning motorists of the dangers of driving under the influence, of speeding and of talking on their phones while at the wheel.
“We are taking these issues very seriously. People need to understand that their lives are at stake while driving,” Georgiou said.
Meanwhile, the Cyprus Youth Council (CYC) has launched a campaign under the slogan #TakeCare, which hopes to spread awareness about road safety.
The main idea behind the campaign is that youth should not just receive the campaign’s message but transmit it as well.
“We are cooperating with police officers and will run a workshop in Paralimni in January 2020 and we are trying to set one up in Larnaca too,” one of the initiative’s organiser Stelios Marathovouniotis said.
He said though “the problem in Cyprus is a cultural one.”
“Young people speed on the roads to show off their cars. This needs to change, it’s as important as the parliament bills.
“That’s why we want young people to be at the helm of our campaign, we think they will deliver a stronger message.”