More than one quarter of fatal road accident victims so far this year were people up to 25 years old, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Monday at the launch of a week-long campaign clamping down on drivers who fail to have both hands of the steering wheel.
Since the beginning of the year 42 people died in 37 fatal road accidents, he said. Eleven of them were under 25 and were killed as a result of careless driving and/or driving under the influence of alcohol, Nicolaou said.
Recalling the results of a study carried out on behalf of his ministry last year, Nicolaou said that Cypriot drivers were found to be hasty, impatient and careless on the road.
He said that a package of bills providing for harsher penalties for those causing fatal and serious accidents is to be tabled before the cabinet within days for approval.
It was hoped, he said, that the bills, in tandem with increased police presence on the roads, would ensure wiser drivers, especially those who are indifferent to the punishment of their actions.
“It is tragic to consider that in a modern society, 16 lost their lives (this year) on the tarmac because they had no seat belts on and another nine because they had no protective helmets on,” Nicolaou said.
He added that it is only through a multifaceted strategy that awareness can be raised and lead to a decrease in the thousands of fines for traffic violations for using a mobile phone while driving and speeding.
The government, he said, is focusing mainly on young drivers and has expanded its cooperation with non-governmental organisations active in the field of road safety such as the Cyprus Youth Organisation.
“By the end of this year we will have a comprehensive plan of targeted interventions that will run in 2019 to raise awareness among the youth and especially young drivers,” he said.
“The training of tomorrow’s drivers” is also being promoted by the introduction last year of the traffic education course in lyceums and tougher regulations for obtaining a driver’s licence.
A driver rehabilitation school is also being established for traffic offenders deemed by the court or police as in need of re-training.
The police campaign against drivers not having both hands on the wheel ends on Sunday and will mainly focus on those using mobile phones while behind the wheel.
On an international basis, police said, breaking the concentration of the driver is one of the main causes in the increased number of traffic accidents.
The use of mobile phones while driving has a drastic impact on the driver’s attention, especially while trying to send a text at the same time.
Those caught using their phone while driving are fined and lose points on their licence.
In the first 23 days of October Paphos police recorded a total of 1,651 cases of traffic code violations.
Paphos police recorded 704 cases of speeding, 123 of mobile phone use while driving, and 239 cases where drivers were not wearing seat belts or safety helmets.
Regarding high alcohol consumption, the police said checks showed one in ten drivers were above the allowed limit.
From the total 798 checks for alcohol consumption, 81 drivers were above the limit. Meanwhile, one driver was found driving under the influence of drugs.
An additional 503 drivers were reported for various other traffic code violations.
A 36-year-old man was caught on Thursday night on the Limassol to Nicosia motorway driving at almost 200 kilometres per hour.
Officers signalled the driver to stop near Skarinou but he apparently ignored them. He was doing 196km/h, almost 100km over the speed limit.
He was eventually stopped near the Alambra industrial area.
Officers found out that the 36-year-old was not the owner of the car, whose road tax had expired last July. The car’s owner was a passenger in the vehicle.
Both men were led to the local police station where they were charged with a number of offences.
Police said Friday they were studying ways to ease traffic jams in Nicosia, which have worsened in recent days, prompting angry outbursts from motorists who are forced to spend hours behind the wheel.
The force used a helicopter twice on Friday to survey the capital in a bid to find ways of easing traffic.
A police statement said chief Zacharias Chrysostomou had given instructions for a study to be done and come with recommendations that will be submitted to the authorities.
On Friday, assistant to the chief Demetris Demetriou, who had served as the forces traffic chief for years, took to the skies in a helicopter to map the problem and seek alternative solutions.
The force however, stressed that traffic problems were also the result of lack of infrastructure and public transport, which had to be created or reinforced.
Police said they would help in every way to improve the situation despite being short staffed. The chief has repeatedly asked the government to fill some 500 vacant positions.
Nicosia residents and visitors driving into the capital have been experiencing long traffic jams for some years, especially at its entrance.
Various infrastructure projects which are running simultaneously have only served to exacerbate the situation. The long delays in the completion of Eleftheria Square make things worse since other projects have started in the immediate area, which meant more road closures.
Another large project causing problems are the roadworks on Kallipoleos Avenue, which served as an exit from the centre.