Thirteen people out of 41 killed in road incidents so far this year were under 25-years-old, police data showed, as most deaths occur during the early morning hours due to speeding and reckless driving.
Speaking at an event to mark traffic safety week, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said 41 people had died so far in 2017 in 37 fatal collisions.
“As a state, we are declaring a fight to cultivate traffic awareness because traffic safety must be embedded as part of our culture,” the minister said.Citing a study carried out to assist the new communications strategy, the minister said the typical Cypriot driver was “hasty, impatient, careless, one who ignores the traffic code in Cyprus and does not respect other users of the road network.
“On the contrary, Cypriot drivers display exemplary road behaviour and follows rules to the letter when abroad,” he added.
The minister said the data that emerged through the study enabled the authorities to draft a more effective and focused communications strategy aiming at educating and sensitising the public, especially new drivers.
As part of the strategy, the cabinet has approved the creation of a driving school where courts or the police will refer motorists who need training and education.
Driving education will also be introduced in schools in a bid to cultivate awareness, the minister said.
Police chief Zaharias Chrysostomou said the number of deaths to date led the force to intensify efforts further to educate and sensitise the public.
Police have also acquired 22 vehicles equipped with automatic number-plate recognition technology, allowing officers to spot offenders easily.
Chrysostomou said their work will be assisted greatly by 90 fixed and 20 mobile traffic cameras expected to be up and running early next year.
Traffic cameras were installed in 2006, helping cut down traffic collisions by 53 per cent. But technical issues and subsequent legal problems meant their removal and considerable delays in installing new ones.
THE police have adamantly denied accusations from the public that drivers are being fined for offences they did not commit for the sake of meeting internal quotas, especially when conducting high-profile road safety campaigns.
In the space of one week last month, the Sunday Mail received complaints from several readers claiming they had been wrongly fined for traffic offences.
Two different men were fined in Germasogia, Limassol at two traffic lights close to each other for running a red light – charges they both deny.
One of them, Robert Michael, a 70-year-old retired British policeman who had worked in London, said he was absolutely perplexed by the fact he was fined when the light was very much green when he passed it.
“I braked as I approached the traffic lights just in case they would go amber but they were still green. I continued to drive on and a policeman pulled me over to say I had passed with a red light,” he told the Sunday Mail.
“I’m an ex policeman from London. I don’t break the law. If it was justified I certainly wouldn’t dispute it.”
Michael said he began disputing the case with the police officer on scene and when Michael told him he was willing to take the case to court, the officer allegedly responded with “you can try but we always win.”
Cases such as these are always very difficult to prove or dispute.
Unlike London, which is covered with cameras and CCTV, in Cyprus a court case would be the word of one man against that of an officer.
“In the UK I would have a shot at justice but not in this country,” Fields said.
“I had children in the car, so of course I was driving carefully.”
On the same day, a friend of Fields, Egis Rukviza also got stopped at a nearby set of traffic lights in Germasogia for what he was told at the scene was running a red light.
Rukviza has been living in Cyprus with his wife Neringa for the past seven years after they moved from Lithuania and says in all his time here he had never once been fined.
Due to Rukviza’s broken English, his wife spoke on his behalf to the Sunday Mail “my husband stopped at the traffic lights because it was red and there was another car in front of him. Then it became green and they drove on. Police didn’t stop the first car. It was an expensive one, so they didn’t bother, but they stopped my husband.
“I know my husband, he drives very carefully,” Neringa said.
According to their account, once pulled over, the police officer called on a colleague of his – who was sitting in the car – to write up the fine.
“He didn’t even see what happened. My husband kept insisting it was green,” she said.
Later that evening, the couple went to the police station to complain and ask for proof of the offence – they were told there were no CCTV cameras.
Police spokesman Andreas Angelides said the difficulty with such complaints is that there is hardly ever any evidence – unlike those that are caught speeding with the use of a radar – and it was the word of one person against another.
“We also have to keep in mind that the person being fined might be overreacting,” and perhaps falsely denying the charge, Angelides told the Sunday Mail.
Police’s campaigns are aimed to clamp down on bad drivers not an attempt to give out tickets left, right and centre, he added.
On August 29, in a one-day campaign, 259 people were booked in Limassol alone between 8am to 5pm.
Of those, 78 were booked running a red light while 82 were caught using a mobile phone while driving.
“I don’t mind these campaigns. I think they’re great. But you can’t fine innocent people as a source of income,” Michael said.
There are three courses of action available for people to follow when they feel they have been wronged – send a letter to the chief of police, take the case to court, or speak to the local traffic police supervisor.
If there is a case of bad police behaviour, then the public can also file a report to the independent authority for the investigation of allegations and complaints against the police.
Michael and Rukviza however tried – and were rebuffed twice – when they tried to speak to Limassol traffic police, they said.
After they discovered they had both been fined, they headed to the Germasogia police station asking to speak to the traffic supervisor. They were advised to go the next day.
The following day however the supervisor was apparently still unavailable to meet them and sent out the police officer that fined Rukviza.
Upon closer inspection Rukviza also realised that although his supposed offence was running a red light, the ticket said he had been driving while on his phone – an offence he also denies.
“The officer, when he came out to meet my husband and Mr Robert (Michael) at the station, then insisted they had driven past a red light,” Neringa said.
“So they asked him why the ticket was for driving while using a mobile phone and he said ‘you committed both but I fined you only for one’.”
Rukviza was considering filing a report over the police officer but said “they all work together. I don’t think a complaint would even make it to the policeman’s file. I doubt they even have a file.”
Angelides told the Sunday Mail that under no circumstances do police have quotas of fines that have to be filled.
“On the contrary, officers are told that if they’re not sure about an offence – say someone was caught for speeding but they weren’t sure if the person was wearing a seatbelt – then to ignore the seatbelt offence,” he said.
“Over the years, the behaviour of the police force has improved as well and the way they respond to the public. Many times the officers are on the receiving end of abuse from people that are upset about being fined who start shouting and swearing.”
All of which is no doubt true, but is of little solace to Michael and Rukviza. Both men paid their €85 fines, but feel it is unjust, as they insist they didn’t commit the offences.
“If I’d done it, of course I’d pay,” Fields said.
The government’s Road Safety Council had last called for a study on the issue to be prepared since it is widely if not officially acknowledged that the police already generally turn a blind eye to drivers on the highway speeding at up to 120km/h since all the country’s highways have at least two lanes of traffic.
The Public Works Department is still working on the report which will feature the opinions of all the relevant stakeholders but Phileleftheros on Tuesday reported that the Department itself as well as the police have already indicted they are against the idea.
The Public Works Department has raised objections noting that the highways were designed and constructed based on specific criteria taking into account that cars would be travelling at no more than 100km/h. Raising the speed limit would lead to the need for changes to the points of entrance into and exit from the highway, the Department says.
The police, meanwhile, are concerned a higher speed limit will encourage drivers to reach even higher speeds as they expect the same room for leeway they currently enjoy.
The Traffic Police note that Cyprus has amongst the safest highways in Europe with less than five fatalities per year and say changing the speed limit will make them far more perilous.
According to the latest figures, one in three lorries that were stopped for inspections were cited for various violations while the situation was more dire for buses which found most of them to have violated a traffic law in one shape or form.
The major campaign between July 24 and 30 in Cyprus was part of a wider European initiative by the European Traffic Police Network (TISPOL).
A total of 776 heavy vehicles were inspected out of which 305 were cited. A total of 104 inspections were made on buses during which 84 were cited for various violations while 672 lorries were inspected out of which 222 were cited for various violations.
Committing a traffic offence in an EU country can soon mean the fine will follow you home. EU parliament explains how in the following video. Driving abroad this summer? Behave, because the fine will follow you home! Check out our video ? ↓ pic.twitter.com/ByyjUILV17 — European Parliament (@Europarl_EN) July 24, 2017 Print Friendly
Police urged drivers on Thursday to respect other road users by exhibiting proper road behaviour after they caught a drunk 30-year-old male motorist – almost five times over the limit – driving on the opposite lane in the Ayia Napa to Rizoelia highway.
In total, it said, 240 drivers – around one in ten – who were stopped for breathalyser tests last week, were over the limit.
The man was seen by officers at around 5.30am on Thursday driving in the opposite lane of the Ayia Napa to Rizoelia highway. The breathalyser test indicated 99 microgrammes of alcohol in his system, almost five times over the permitted level of 22mg.
He was taken to the police station where he was charged and is to be brought before the court at a later date. His relatives were notified to pick him up from the police station.
Police said that driving under the influence of alcohol “cannot be characterised as anything other than disrespect for society and contempt for life”.
“It seems however, through statistics, that many of our co-citizens are indifferent to those around them,” it said.
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