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Our View: Only so much traffic cameras can achieve

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Two years after the first rollout of traffic cameras following almost two decades of problems getting there, Paphos on Monday received its first 16 fixed cameras, having had a number of mobile cameras during the past couple of years.

Fixed cameras are already in place in the other main districts. The news came at the same time as an article on how 38 bookings were registered by police for speeding and 22 for drink driving over the weekend in the Paphos area.

It does not seem like a lot for Cyprus. At the same time, there really shouldn’t be any. Speeding remains the biggest cause of road accidents and fatalities, which, at 34, were slightly down in 2023 over 2022, and the lowest since records began, even though in the early hours of New Year’s Day four people lost their lives in one collision.

Police, in an article in Phileleftheros on Monday, attributed part of the fall in deaths to the installation of the cameras. This may be so, but the numbers cited in the article in terms of overall violations were mind-boggling.

In the first two years of operation, 357,870 violations were recorded and 279,751 court orders issuedOf these, 233,572 have been paid, while another 42,179 remain unpaid. Police said that although the figures appear huge, the number of violations caught per camera per quarter had fallen from 800 to 200.

Despite this positive development, according to the data, a total of 124,298 incidents recorded by the system in 2022 and 2023 are pending clarification because there are errors, wrong addresses and issues finding drivers. Also, some violators work for companies who don’t keep meticulous records on the movement of each driver.

One of the bigger issues is drivers refusing to go to the post office to pick up their fine notifications.

Authorities are now trying to find ways to get around this by sending emails or SMS so that the drivers can’t plead ignorance. Moves are also afoot that would allow fine notifications to be served by airport and port police.

What the figures show is that not only is there still a significant mentality of breaking the rules of the road, cameras be damned, but also one of trying to avoid paying the piper if offenders think they can get away with it. It was interesting that the majority of speed violations were in Nicosia, the city with the most cameras.

This mentality makes the entire system, although it has worked up to a point, cumbersome, imperfect and needing a lot of resources across multiple agencies.

The real key to ending the extent of traffic violations, since changing road mentality has failed after years of road-awareness campaigns, will be emerging technologies and AI embedded into vehicles that simply will not allow speeding or drunk driving.

Until then, the measures already implemented and those in the pipeline, are a step in the right direction for as long as the break-the-rules mentality in Cyprus continues to persist.

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