The government’s “zero-tolerance” policy on reckless driving has led to widespread confusion over the new measures, particularly in regards to driving under the influence of drugs.
A 33-year-old man who was caught speeding and tested positive for drug use had his licence revoked on Tuesday. Lab results later showed he tested positive for cocaine use.
But wider questions have been asked about accuracy and equal treatment under the new policy.
Many drivers are unclear as to exactly which road violations qualify for a person to have their licence revoked.
To make matters even more confusing, there are two separate categories of losing a licence.
The first is a temporary suspension while their case is examined and the second is an outright revocation of the licence after their case has been studied.
The offender has 14 days to file a complaint.
A common question from the public has been whether testing positive for any drug whatsoever, and any amount will lead to them losing their licence.
“Yes, driving under the influence of drugs and testing positive will lead to at least a suspension of the licence until detailed lab results arrive,” Police Spokesman Christos Andreou replied when asked to clarify on this issue.
The grey area is that a person may have smoked cannabis the night before and still test positive for a narcotest in the morning, hours after consuming the drug.
In this sense, a person who smoked a joint of cannabis and a person who had a heavy night of cocaine use would both be put into the same category – testing positive for drug use.
Asked on this issue, Andreou said that “an initial test cannot tell when a person used the drugs or what drugs exactly, only that they are positive in the test and are under the influence – whether or not they did it the night before.”
He clarified that more detailed lab results which specify the type of drug used may impact the severity of the case against them.
The police have the right to temporarily suspend a person’s licence while they consider a full revocation.
“The least that will happen is a temporary suspension of their driving licence,” Andreou said. “If they are under the influence and are caught speeding or any other violations, then of course the case against is much more serious.”
Some have expressed frustration at an apparent unfairness in the process. A driver may lose their licence for light marijuana use, while a driver three times over the alcohol limit will be fined and may only receive a warning.
Drink driving remains common in Cyprus – in part – due to fairly lax laws, relative cultural acceptance and poor public transportation.
In the UK drivers are subject to harsh penalties for drink driving violations, such as a driving ban for at least one year (3 years if convicted twice in 10 years).
Drivers found to be driving under the influence of drugs, are found to be way over the alcohol limit or exceed by far the speed limit will have their licence taken away immediately, Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos said on Friday.
He was speaking after a meeting of the road safety council, which he presided over in the presence of Justice Minister Giorgos Savvides.
The transport minister said the measure would be implemented as of Friday. Police said they would discuss the practical implementation of this proposal on Monday.
A police source told the Cyprus Mail that for alcotests, instructions will be given for licences to be revoked immediately in cases where the reading is 120μg and over, while those found with over 70μg when breathalysed will be subject to this measure if they are caught for the same offence again. As regards speeding, the source said whether a licence will be revoked will be assessed for each case.
Karousos, citing the “very worrying data” presented during the meeting on driving under the influence of alcohol, drugs and speeding, said that the council has decided to make use of the powers of the road transport department.
“When it is confirmed they are driving dangerously, their licences will be suspended immediately until their cases are investigated,” Karousos said.
He added that the road transport department has the power to suspend drivers’ licences.
The minister gave as an example the case of the professional driver caught driving with his feet last November.
“His license was cancelled and he was asked to take exams again to be able to obtain a professional driver’s licence,” Karousos said.
The 43-year-old man was called in for questioning by the police last November after posting a video on Facebook of himself driving his truck using only his feet, on the Nicosia-Limassol motorway. He faces two charges relating to engaging in a senseless, dangerous and reckless act and driving without insurance. He is due in court next week.
Karousos said the road transport department, after being informed by the police, will immediately revoke the licence of those found driving recklessly through speeding or driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
He explained that if a driver’s narcotest is found positive then his licence will be immediately revoked until his case is referred to a medical council which would look into whether he or she is a regular drugs user or not.
“If someone is found to speed excessively, they will be deemed as dangerous and the road transport department has the power to revoke their licence and it will do so,” the minister said, adding that they will exhibit “zero tolerance”.
Justice Minister Savvides said that this year started tragically since by the end of January five people had died in road accidents, most of them young persons.
He said that seven bills and a regulation on harsher penalties for traffic offences are currently being discussed at the House transport committee and expressed hope they would be tabled to the plenary to vote within February.
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