Traffic cameras by early next year, increased narco-tests and harsher penalties for driving offences are just some of the measures being introduced with the aim of reducing road deaths by 50 per cent.
Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos chaired a road safety council meeting on Wednesday, attended by Justice Minister Emily Yiolitis, and set out the plan for the period 2021-2030.
The central focus includes traffic cameras and a general review of the current traffic laws.
Traffic cameras are seen as a key tool in reducing yearly road fatalities. Karousos said that evaluation of the tenders for the cameras will be completed by the end of September.
Karousos set the timeframe for the installation of traffic cameras to begin in the first two months of 2021 – provided there are no appeals during the tenders’ process.
Appeals are notorious for holding up public works projects for years, with one of the latest being the fallout of contracts awarded to bus companies.
Noting the severity of the situation on the roads, Karousos said that last year there were 52 road deaths.
“Each such deaths from traffic accidents costs the economy of our country about 3 million euros… [last year] the cost to the economy exceeded 150 million euros,” Karousos said.
But traffic cameras have an embattled history, with currently only two in operation throughout the entirety of the Republic.
Those two cameras alone have their work cut out, as they clocked over 87,500 traffic violations in five years from the period of 2014 to 2019.
A system of traffic cameras operated elsewhere for around 10 months from November 2006 until August 2007, but these were removed after disagreements with the supplier, and since then there have been several botched tenders’ procedures.
During those 10 months, 16 fixed traffic cameras and seven mobile ones recorded around 165,000 violations, though the real number was in fact much higher as for various reasons the system was unable to process roughly 30 per cent of violations.
The transport ministry in 2019 set a target of having 90 fixed cameras in place by 2022 with a further 20 mobile units in use.
While the announcement was thin on specifics, Yiolitis said that: “Some of the actions that will be carried out are the doubling of narcotics tests and the better policing by the traffic police of the municipalities.”
Another prong against troublesome drivers will come into effect on October 1, as traffic violations are set to be punished with greater severity.
Deputies voted in July for an overhaul to reckless driving penalties which, in general, sees the doubling of fines for repeat offences committed within two to three years.
The focus for many has been reckless driving but it appears the government has also set its sights on the lax adherence to parking rules by Cypriot drivers.
The minister said that there will be “zero tolerance for illegal parking”.
It is unclear how such a policy will be enforced, as throughout the island pedestrians are plagued by pavements clogged up with illegally parked cars. In a number of photos to have gone viral online, police cars were also apparently parked illegally.
In September 2019, a wheelchair user was forced onto the road and killed in a car accident because cars were parked on the pavement.
Cyprus is amongst the EU countries with the least safe roads, according to figures released in July by the European Automobile Manufacturers Association (ACEA).
While Sweden has the safest roads, with 25 road deaths per million people, the UK is second with 28 and Cyprus is ranked at number 20 with 62. Romania, however, has the worst record, with 99 fatalities per million inhabitants.