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Our View: Time to get serious about road safety  

Cyprus has spent some 15 years trying to put in place a system of traffic cameras without success due to technical and legal hurdles that saw various options shelved and taken out of the drawer and put back in again over those years.

With an appalling road-safety record compared to our EU counterparts, and a pledge to reduce deaths by 50 per cent by 2030, the failure to put a camera system in place by now is tantamount to gross negligence by successive governments and parliaments.

A traffic-cams 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. All were successfully challenged legally, leaving the system toothless.

The cameras were disabled 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.

The current government has admitted Cyprus’ failure in its Recovery and Resilience plan saying the island “was still facing significant challenges in road safety” and adding that almost 70 per cent of road fatalities occur in built-up areas, “which is far above the European average of 38 per cent”.

Whether or not it’s part of the 1,000-page reset plan or not, authorities are about to make a new attempt in October to install a system that will be operated and maintained by a private company for a period of five years.  Under the contract, the cameras must be operational by October 25. A testing period will start soon according to a police traffic department spokesman, which will be run by the company in cooperation with the authorities.

There is only one hitch. The House, which has had 15 years to prepare for this, still hasn’t passed the necessary legislation, a factor which almost beggars belief.

The police spokesman said the test period was legally covered by the contract. Great. But that is not the point. Every time a youngster dies on the road, MPs and others bemoan the loss of young lives. Yet they’ve never bothered to do anything about it. It was not a surprise that this new camera system was being brought in later this year. The least they could have done was to be ready for it.

The police spokesman was honest enough to admit that despite the reduction or stabilisation that Cyprus has shown in its fatality and injury record in recent years – which has been entirely down to officers pounding the beat plus better messaging – “the truth is that if the camera system had been implemented like it should have been a long time ago, an even greater reduction would probably have been recorded”.

Maybe MPs, when they return from their well-paid extended summer holidays, will finally heed that message and act quickly to approve the necessary legislation to make it work this time.

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