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Cyprus

Emergency road safety meeting after tragic accident

feature nik the specific intersection in kato polemidia has been dubbed one of the 'black spots' in the road network file photo
The specific intersection in Kato Polemidia has been dubbed one of the 'black spots' in the road network

Transport ministry will look at ways to eliminate ‘black spots’ in road network

A meeting will be held on Monday to discuss how to improve road safety in Cyprus, following a tragic New Year accident that killed four people from the same family, and raised concerns once again that the island is lagging in measures to prevent such tragedies.

The meeting will be held with specialists in road safety from the public works department of the transport ministry, who are responsible for signage, traffic lights, speed bumps and road modifications that improve safety in the road network.

The issue was raised following the death of four people, two grandparents and their grandchildren half an hour after midnight on New Year’s day, when they were hit by an oncoming vehicle in Kato Polemidia, Limassol. The four were not wearing seat belts.

Although, the driver in this case was not drunk or under the influence of drugs, he is suspected of possibly speeding and running a red light, at the turning where the crash occurred.

The man, 44, was arrested and remanded for six days earlier in the week, as police investigate the cause of the crash that killed, 27-year-old Vathoula Georgiou, 17-year-old Nikolas Georgiou, their grandfather, 73-year-old Nikolas Zavrou and 74-year-old Evanthia Georgiou, their grandmother.

The 44-year-old stands accused of causing death by negligence and running a red traffic light.

The man denied this in the court hearing on Tuesday, and said the light was on green when he passed it.

Police have obtained CCTV footage of the man running a red traffic light at the junction at which the incident occurred and have also taken witness statements from drivers who were on the road at the time.

Speaking to the Cyprus Mail, Transport Minister Alexis Vafeades announced that the road safety meeting would take place on January 9, following the tragic accident.

“We need to find other ways to make drivers reduce their speed,” he said, commenting on the meeting.

Regarding the incident, he said that some immediate passive measures could be taken for that specific intersection, but that more would need to be done.

Some of the immediate measures for the intersection could be to place speed bumps or a small roundabout in the area, which would effectively force drivers to slow down.

He identified the specific intersection in Kato Polemidia as one of the “black spots” in the road network.

The black spots will be looked into at the meeting as there are other similar areas on the roads in Cyprus.

Commenting on active measures that could be taken to prevent further accidents on the road, Vafeades said that there could be increased police patrolling in areas, but also more cameras placed.

Another measure being examined is the use of a timer on some traffic lights, which will count down the time the light will remain green.

He added that this countdown system would not be compatible with another plan, for which the ministry is already taking offers – the smart traffic light system.

This system, the minster said, would see smart traffic lights placed “to clear traffic”.

The system, which was developed at the American university Carnegie Mellon, is unlike other dynamic control signals that adjust the timing and phasing of lights according to limits that are set in controller programming. This system combines existing technology with artificial intelligence.

The signals communicate with each other and adapt to changing traffic conditions to reduce the amount of time that cars spend idling. Using fibre optic video receivers like those already employed in dynamic control systems, the new technology monitors vehicle numbers and makes changes in real time to avoid congestion wherever possible.

Vafeades told the Cyprus Mail that the committee is examining several road safety measures, to increase road safety, some being increased signage to “provide better information to drivers”.

On another burning topic, which has been the passing of a red light fine at intersections where there are traffic cameras, earlier this week he said that the fine for passing a red light needs to remain the same at €300, but there is a discussion on whether there needs to be a change on fining people that passed legally into an intersection but have suddenly been caught by a red light and stopped on or just after the line.

The proposal being examined is to make the fine for touching the line at a red light or passing it by a few centimetres less than when the driver completely passes the red line.

Since the day the camera system went live, nearly 20,000 drivers have been reported for running a red light.

Close to 70 per cent of them were driving straight over the intersection and the rest were caught while turning right following a signal arrow.

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