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Our View: Traffic cams a step closer but collection of fines still a shambles

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Photo: CNA

It should not have come as too much of a surprise that 500 traffic violations were recorded in only two hours during the rollout of the pilot scheme for traffic cameras, legislation for which was finally passed by the House on Thursday.

The initial phase of the new pilot programme was set to operate until the end of November, only issuing warnings instead of fines, but this will now run until the end of the year.

It may seem counterintuitive that a high number of violations being recorded will lead to a longer period without fines, but it has been reasoned that the public may need more time to familiarise themselves with the new system.

Installing cameras is one thing. Having a system in place to issue fines is another. It seems that in our hurry to get the cameras up and running, the latter did not happen at the same pace, and the lessons of the past have been forgotten.

Let’s hope there will not be a repeat of what happened in 2006 during the first rollout. Aside from the fact that the older technology back then had numerous problems, including failure to store photographs, the whole scheme collapsed due to 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.

Right now, drivers know that the cameras as they stand are part of a pilot scheme and they can’t be fined but the authorities seem to be pandering to them by giving more time to ‘get used to it’.

According to one official, more time has been given so that an information campaign can get underway, to make sure that people are not caught unawares.

But will the Cyprus public ever be ready for a system where they are caught violating traffic laws on camera and have fines issued automatically? It’s been 15 years, almost a whole new generation of drivers, and still the authorities feel people need more time to adjust?

The only way errant drivers will get it through their heads will be when the fines start rolling out, and even then, being Cyprus, there is a massive issue with people failing to pay up, even if the system is put in place correctly.

It emerged earlier in the week in a report by the audit office that the state was owed tens of millions in unexecuted fine warrants, a result of poor record-keeping and below-par IT systems by the authorities.

The government watchdog said the situation with pending fines had not improved in any measurable way since the last similar audit three years ago. In most cases, the police do not take actions to ensure proper execution. The biggest joke was that the report referred to four MPs who are on the list of high-profile people who have not paid their traffic fines for years.

With elected politicians like this, is it any wonder the public ignores traffic rules and fails to pay up themselves?

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