© Reuters/POOL FILE PHOTO: Weekly cabinet meeting in Berlin
By Markus Wacket
BERLIN (Reuters) – German Transport Minister Andreas Scheuer aims to clear the way for an almost blanket motorway toll for cars across Germany and Europe during the country’s presidency of the European Union, a draft document seen by Reuters on Wednesday showed.
Within eight years, almost all vehicles on motorways, including lorries, vans and cars, would have to pay tolls, according to the draft for the EU toll directive.
“As regards member states that have already established a charging system, tolls or user charges shall be levied upon all vehicles except coaches and buses,” stated the document which Scheuer wants German ministries to approve on Wednesday.
That would make it Germany’s official proposal for its presidency of the bloc which started on July 1 and runs until the end of the year.
However, some government officials told Reuters that some German ministries wanted to put the project on ice even though a distance-based toll is widely seen as a measure to help protect the climate.
It is particularly sensitive for ministries headed by the Social Democrats (SPD), who share power with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives and have long been critical of car tolls.
(Reporting by Markus Wacket; Writing by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Michelle Martin)
A car that had been customised by its owner was destroyed on Wednesday on the orders of the Larnaca district court after it ruled that the changes made to the vehicle were illegal.
The car was seized last December after a routine traffic check in Larnaca when its 27-year-old owner was found to be driving while his licence was revoked and with no insurance.
During a check of the vehicle, police found out that it had undergone several mechanical conversions such as an engine change without the permission from the road transport department. The vehicle’s frame where the chassis number was located had been cut and welded anew, and as a result, it was not possible to prove the car’s identity. It was therefore deemed unfit to run, police said.
The Larnaca district court ordered the vehicle’s destruction on June 11 citing the illegal conversions made and the imprisonment of the owner for 30 days, among other things.
“The vehicle was transported today to an approved site of destruction of old vehicles where the court decree was executed,” police said.
The driver was sentenced to 30 days in prison and his licence was revoked for four months after he was found guilty of driving while his licence was revoked, with no insurance and for the changes he had made to the car.
Drivers are set to face steeper and more targeted fines in October, as parliament is set to vote next week on seven bills to introduce the changes.
The simple take-away is that fines are set to increase across the board. In most cases, the fines have been doubled with provisions for even steeper penalties for repeat offences within certain period of time.
The bills are set to pass next week but the new measures will not come into effect until October.
During the intervening two months, authorities will carry out a large-scale information campaign to inform the public of the new measures.
As one MP told the Cyprus Mail: “It’s complex set of changes that will occur and people will have to familiarise themselves with the new measures.”
It appears that there was some haggling over how steep to the fines should be.
It is understood that the justice ministry had lobbied for heftier fines, such as a penalty of €300 for using the phone while driving. The transport committee, however, proposed a fine of €150 which could reach €300 for a repeat offence.
The reasoning behind this, a member of the transport committee told the Cyprus Mail, is that “the fines should be high enough to act as a deterrent but not overly strict so as to bankrupt someone.”
The transport committee and justice ministry also hope to cover some loopholes. Currently, as the MP told the Cyprus Mail, it is cheaper to pay the fine for driving without a licence than it is to buy the licence itself.
The exact details of the new measures are set to be made available shortly as the information campaign begins.
Cyprus is near the bottom of European countries when it comes to the number of road fatalities per million inhabitants, according to figures released 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.
Road fatalities are at their highest in eastern Europe. Romania has the worst record, with 99 fatalities per million inhabitants. Bulgaria comes close with 96. Next on the list are Croatia, Poland and Latvia.
The EU average is 49 fatalities per million.
According to the ACEA, road traffic deaths have been falling in the EU for the past two decades. In 2001, there were 54,900 fatalities. By 2017 this had fallen to 25,300.
However, more needs to be done, EU Commissioner Elzbieta Bienkowska, responsible for internal market and industry, said.
“We can and must act to change this. With the new advanced safety features that will become mandatory, we can have the same kind of impact as when safety belts were first introduced,” she commented.
In a bid to alleviate traffic during the summer, police on Friday banned articulated lorries from using motorways and other networks between certain times the next three Sundays of the month.
According to a statement, on July 12, 19, and 26, between 9am and 1pm and 4pm and 8pm, articulated lorries would be banned from using motorways as well as the Nicosia -Troodos, Limassol-Platres-Troodos, and Paphos-Polis roads.
Recently, because of the large number of cars on the network and two crashes, thousands of motorists were stuck on the highway for hours.
In addition, police would be stepping up its patrols during the weekend and carry out checks with special emphasis on offences considered the main causes of fatal accidents.
On Sundays, police will also issue frequent announcements regarding the state of the roads.
The government on Thursday announced that the car scrappage scheme announced earlier this year was being cancelled, citing the economic impact of the coronavirus on the state budget.
The announcement follows a briefing by the finance ministry according to which the release of the budget concerning the car scrappage scheme and the promotion of electric vehicles is not foreseen within 2020.
The scheme, which was to issue grants to those who scrap their old cars to buy new ones, or new electric ones, was postponed last May and was to be reassessed at a later stage based on the revised budget for 2020.
Since developments in the economy due to the coronavirus pandemic are ongoing, an official announcement said, “the scheme in question is cancelled.”
Paphos police on Sunday appealed to motorbike users to wear helmets for their own safety.
Speaking after the death of a motorcyclist in Paphos early on Sunday morning, CID Paphos spokesman Michalis Ioannou said “we are making for one more time an appeal to motorcyclists to wear a helmet”.
Shortly before 5am on Sunday Evagoras Demetriou, 24, from Ayia Marina was driving home after a night out on the main road from Polis to his village when he lost control of the bike, which overturned leaving him on the pavement.
He was taken to Paphos general hospital where doctors confirmed his death.
Police arrested a 30-year-old man after he fled Bases police and attempted to evade state authorities in Limassol first thing on Saturday morning.
According to police, the 30-year-old, who had two passengers (18 and 16) in his car, failed to stop when signalled to do so by bases authorities. Instead, police said, he accelerated and intentionally hit a bases police car with two officers inside.
He then accelerated again and fled the scene, while police chased his vehicle and called for aid from the Republic of Cyprus authorities.
Upon entering the Republic of Cyprus areas in the Ypsonas area, police attempted to stop his vehicle again.
The 30-year-old refused and attempting to flee, he drove onto the opposite side of the road, where eventually he cashed into a 22-year-old’s car and one more police vehicle with two officers inside. He then hit into the same bases’ police car that was chasing him, a little further down the road, police said.
After hitting the vehicles, the 30-year-old’s car climbed onto the pavement, and then hit a tree, where it stopped.
All the drivers, the 22-year-old, the 30-year-old and his two passengers, and four officers in the police cars were injured and were taken to hospital.
Doctors determined the drivers were all lightly injured in the crashes, with the most serious injury being that of the 30-year-old, who fractured his hand.
All were discharged after receiving first aid, and the 30-year-old was arrested for a variety of traffic violations.
He refused to take an alcotest and narcotest.
More than 680 people were booked for traffic violations on Saturday during a police operation in all towns to crack down road offences.
According to the police of over 680 offences, 374 referred to speeding and 28 drunk driving.
One car was confiscated as were six motorbikes, a quad bike and a moped.
Cyprus ranks 18th in the EU in road deaths, according to the 14th annual Road Safety Performance Report published on Wednesday by the European Transport Safety Council (ETSC).
In 2019 there was an increase of 6.1 per cent in road deaths in Cyprus. There were 52 road deaths were recorded, three more than in 2018.
With last year’s increase, Cyprus has fallen one notch, from 17th to 18th place in the EU in deaths per capita.
A 3 per cent decrease was recorded overall in the EU in 2019.
Out of 32 countries monitored by the programme, 16 registered a decrease in road deaths in 2019 compared to 2018.
Luxembourg leads the ranking with a 39 per cent reduction in the number of road deaths between 2018 and 2019.15 It is followed by Sweden with a 32 per cent decrease, Estonia with 22 per cent and Switzerland with 20 per cent.
The number of road deaths increased in 12 countries, while progress stagnated in four. The largest increases were registered in Israel with 17 per cent, Denmark with 14 per cent, Slovenia with 12 per cent, Slovakia with 7 per cent and Lithuania and Cyprus with 6 per cent.
However, the report said annual numbers of deaths in Luxembourg and Malta are particularly small and are, therefore, subject to substantial annual fluctuation. Annual numbers of deaths in Cyprus and Estonia are also relatively small and, therefore, may be subject to considerable annual fluctuation.
This may explain why, though deaths in Cyprus increased, the number of seriously injured in road accidents in the country decreased.
The number of people recorded as seriously injured, based on national definitions, decreased in 18 out of 23 EU member states that collect data. However, in the EU23 collectively the progress in reducing serious road traffic injures remains insignificant since 2010.
Serious injuries recorded in Germany and the Netherlands increased and this has had a significant effect on the EU average as recorded serious injuries in these countries represent 48 per cent of all recorded serious injury data in the EU25.
The number of serious injuries increased by 45 per cent in Malta, by 13 per cent in the Netherlands, 11 per cent the UK and 9 per cent in Germany since 2010. At the other end of the ranking is Greece – it achieved the biggest decrease in the number of recorded serious injuries since 2010 with a 63 per cent reduction, followed by Cyprus with 42 per cent and Belgium with 35 per cent.
“It is now considered impossible to achieve the goal of reducing road deaths by 50 per cent from 2010 to 2020, as a reduction of 34.5 per cent is required this year, compared to 2019,” the report concluded.
“A reduction in road deaths is expected this year, of course, due to the restrictive measures taken to deal with the pandemic of Covid-19, but it is considered unlikely to be so great that it will achieve the goal. But even if that happens, it cannot be considered an achievement.”