Police force builds up its smart fleet | Cyprus Mail

The police have procured 96 new vehicles, most of which are ‘smart vehicles’, 42 of which are connected to the ANPR system and another nine are ‘stealth’ cars, which will not be immediately recognisable as police patrol units.

The ANPR system can detect a variety of factors, such as number plates, speed control, valid driver’s license, and outstanding warrants or fines. In October 2020, it was announced that the police had obtained 49 such vehicles, with Wednesday’s report adding more to the force.

Head of the police’s technological development department Loizos Prastitis told Phileleftheros that the smart cars will primarily focus on the secondary road network. Of those, 44 are SUVs and will replace the existing fleet.

The force will now also have at its disposal two mobile command units which will be able to independently coordinate the patrol fleet.

They will be deployed at scenes of trouble and will be able to take statements from witnesses on location.

The two units will also be fitted with screens to follow live footage of ongoing incidents.

The nine ‘stealth cars’ will not have police lights or markings and will blend in with the usual traffic.

And, finally, the police force is also being beefed up with a further five anti-riot vehicles which will be able to transport teams to the scene of riots, illegal gatherings and other such incidents.

Source: Police force builds up its smart fleet | Cyprus Mail

After bumpy start, 6,000 traffic camera fines finally issued | Cyprus Mail

The first 6,000 fines for more than 30,00 traffic violations caught by fixed and mobile cameras have been sent out to offenders, 40 days after the system went live officially, police told CyBC radio on Thursday.

Deputy traffic chief Harris Evripidou said the out-of-court fines are being sent by registered mail together with links and passwords to a website where offenders can see details of the traffic offence as well as photographs.

Most of the offences are in residential areas, he added.

The fine must be paid within 30 days otherwise it will rise by half and must be paid within 45 days. If it is not paid by then, the case will be sent to court.

Four fixed cameras have been installed in Nicosia and police are also using four mobile cameras, the first phase of the plan that will eventually see 110 cameras across the Republic in a renewed push to stem the bloodshed on the roads.

Already beset with delays in its launch, the traffic camera scheme got off to a bumpy start when it emerged that administrative and procedural complications were holding up offenders being fined.

The first set of traffic cameras were launched on October 25 and were operating on a pilot basis until January 1, at which point fines were set to be issued.

Yet it is only 40 days after the grace period ended that the first fines have gone out, with a tangled bureaucracy and poor communication between government departments billed as the one of the main factors for the delay.

Local media reported last month that one office may have the public’s information stored in Greek, another in English and another in a mix of both, making it difficult to confirm a person’s place of residence, for example.

Mobile camera units typically record speeding violations while the fixed units also pick up passing the line at a red light, speeding, not wearing a helmet and parking on yellow lines.

The contract for the cameras includes 90 fixed units in 30 locations around the island as well as 20 mobile cameras which police will determine their location and operating hours on a daily basis.

Source: After bumpy start, 6,000 traffic camera fines finally issued | Cyprus Mail

Authorities mull changes to learner’s licence requirements | Cyprus Mail

Road safety lessons at school could become a prerequisite for young drivers to secure their learner’s licence as government ministries discuss measures to improve driving standards.

Meetings have been held between government ministries to see what can be done, with the transport and education ministries studying which measures could be brought in at schools to cultivate a greater culture of road safety.

One such proposal is that attending road safety lessons at school become a prerequisite to obtaining a learner’s driving licence.

Elsewhere, the transport and education ministers looked to conscripts at the national guard – a demographic seen as more likely to be involved in crashes.

Proposals may be made to hold road safety seminars at the army camps.

Source: Authorities mull changes to learner’s licence requirements | Cyprus Mail

Municipalities eye installing traffic cameras | Cyprus Mail

Traffic Cameras

Municipalities may soon deploy traffic cameras of their own following the green light from the transport ministry, but offences such as speeding won’t be recorded.

The reopening of Nicosia’s revamped Makarios Avenue brought the issue to prominence as one of its two lanes is open only to buses and a few eligible vehicles – as per EU stipulations, which funded the project – but all manners of other cars are encroaching on the bus lane.

Nicosia municipality has said that it is unable to prevent private cars from entering the bus lane without the assistance of a camera monitoring system – which would issue fines to ineligible vehicles veering into it.

“They are currently being installed and the network will be operational by May or June,” Nicosia mayor Constantinos Yiorkadjis told SigmaLive on Wednesday morning.

Yiorkadjis said that the police are responsible for preventing ineligible vehicles from entering the bus lane and not the municipality’s traffic wardens – who instead only check for parking violations.

But it remains undecided as to whether the police or the municipalities will bear responsibility for the camera system, Yiorkadjis said.

Discussions are underway to revise the institutional framework which would permit the camera systems to operate, a process which got further underway following a meeting hosted on Tuesday by the transport ministry. The union of municipalities attended, as did legal advisors who are to draw up plans which will in turn be sent to the transport ministry, the legal services and eventually parliament for a vote.

As it stands, the cameras deployed by municipalities will only issue fines for parking violations and vehicles entering lanes they are not permitted.

Makarios Avenue reopened on December 7 but it was announced that all vehicles will temporarily gain access, seemingly in contradiction to the stipulations set out by Nicosia’s urban mobility plan.

Source: Municipalities eye installing traffic cameras | Cyprus Mail

Shake-up coming for used-car industry | Cyprus Mail

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The used car market is set to become more transparent following a new push for greater clarity as to a vehicle’s history of damage and repair.

The road transport department has opened for public consultation a proposal to amend the law, so that a vehicle’s registration certificate would include a history and list of damage, repairs and replacement parts.

Head of the department Yiannis Nikolaides told the Cyprus Mail on Thursday that the company which insured the car would be required to inform the registrar of vehicles of any damage incurred.

“Checks were previously carried out on used cars coming in from abroad but now we want to regulate this issue domestically as well – so if a car is involved in crash in Cyprus the insurer would be obliged to inform the authorities,” Nikolaides told us.

Insurers would also have to list the repairs, such as whether the airbags were deployed and were then replaced with the correct ones.

Specifically, the proposal says that “damage from crashes, flooding, hail, fire or any other incident” must be reported.

The proposal is open to public consultation and Nikolaides told us that the reaction at large has been positive.

But others may lose out, he said.

Some have benefited from “blind spots” in the current regulations and the lack of a transparent history of the vehicle, but they are unlikely to voice their opposition in public, Nikolaides said.

“There are some who may have been taking advantage,” he added.

Currently, sellers may dress up and pass off a car as being in great condition despite having been in a serious crash – with it being up to their discretion to inform the prospective buyer.

Nikolaides said the amendments would ensure that the cars in use on the roads are safer, and future buyers are getting a fair deal on their purchase and can handle their vehicle accordingly.

Source: Shake-up coming for used-car industry | Cyprus Mail

Cabinet approves push to tighten licence law for moped drivers

Cyprus has moved a step closer to changing the law on driving licences for mopeds and motorbikes, an area which has long been criticised as being too lax but could dramatically shake up the food delivery industry.

The council of ministers on Wednesday approved the transport ministry’s proposal to amend the law, which would require that learner drivers be accompanied by a licensed driving instructor on another vehicle.

The proposal must still pass a vote in parliament, but the changes would have a significant impact on the delivery industry – in which many currently work solely with a learner’s licence.

The law currently allows for moped – and some motorbikes with certain specifications – to be driven indefinitely with just a learner’s licence.

This provisional licence is obtained merely by passing a road sign test.

The ministry’s proposed changes also seek to impose a timeframe for the eligibility of a learner licence to two years and require that learner drivers must wear more protective clothing – as would be expected of a motorbike driver, such as high visibility vests and trousers.

Should the holder of a learner’s licence fail to proceed to obtaining a full licence, they will have to reacquire their provisional one.

The proposal also lays out that learner drivers must wear jackets or a high vis vest, trousers, boots or adequate shoes, protective knee pads and gloves.

The protective gear stipulations also apply to drivers of motorbikes and mopeds who use the vehicles as part of their work.

The transport ministry said the proposal was shaped following decisions made by the road safety council, which also highlighted that 16 motorcyclists died from crashes in 2019, 14 in 2020 and 14 in 2021.

Road toll inches up towards 2020 levels | Cyprus Mail

Car crashes and other related road deaths have claimed the lives of 39 people so far this year, as Cyprus appears to be stuck at about 50 such deaths a year – despite major progress being made in reducing serious injuries.

The death of a 50-year-old man on Wednesday draws 2021 closer to the 48 deaths in 2020.
The deaths in 2020 – despite long stretches spent in lockdown – have puzzled experts who are concerned that the progress made since 2008 has stalled.

Indeed, 2008 was a “black year” as 82 deaths were recorded, with fatalities steadily dropping ever since.
But there is still a chance, however hopeful, that 2021 could equal 2013 when ‘just’ 43 people died on the road.

There are concerns however that the Christmas and New Year’s Eve period will add to the tally in 2021 as it is a typically dangerous period, with increased levels of speeding and drunk driving.

Indeed, 2008 was a “black year” as 82 deaths were recorded, with fatalities steadily dropping ever since.
Some have put that down to improvements in car technology (safer and sturdier designs dislodging older models) while improvements in road designs have also played their part.

Others have offered that deaths remained high despite the lockdown measures as the roads were relatively empty, leading to complacency such as running red lights and excessive speeding.

But with a 95 per cent car use amongst the population, experts are concerned that Cyprus saw one of the lowest decreases in road deaths during 2020 – with just an eight per cent reduction as 52 deaths were recorded in 2019. Notably, however, there was a 20 per cent reduction from the 73 road deaths in 2010.

But on a positive note, serious injuries sustained in such crashed have fallen dramatically – from a high of 661 in 2008 to 211 in 2020. As many have noted, the deaths typically garner headlines while serious injuries which may forever alter a person’s life often go under the radar.

But not all crashes are equal, as in the past 12 years there have been 729 road deaths with the vast majority being men, at 78 per cent.

According to data compiled by the police, alcohol was determined to be the cause of the crashes in 26 per cent of cases, while ‘careless driving’ was at 22 per cent. Drugs were at six per cent as were careless right hand turns. Notably, speeding was at 12 per cent.

Car drivers and passengers accounted for 323 of the deaths, with 60 per cent not wearing a seatbelt.

Source: Road toll inches up towards 2020 levels | Cyprus Mail

Cabinet approves legislation to regulate use of scooters | Cyprus Mail

The cabinet on Monday approved legislation regulating the use of scooters or e-scooters, including minimum specifications and safety measures.

The bills were prepared by the transport ministry in a bid to ensure road safety, as the use of such vehicles appears to be on the rise.

According to the bills, a scooter is any self-propelled device using any form of energy, which can carry a seated or standing person. The device has handlebars, a drive shaft, and at least two wheels.

Anything that does not conform with the legal definition regarding personal mobility devices, such as hoverboards and skates, will be prohibited from use on public areas/roads.

Scooters can be used in bicycle road or lanes, or any other area that constitutes an extension of a bicycle road – common space used by cyclists and pedestrians.

They can also use pavements or squares provided the local authority has permitted their use in such areas.

Users must be 16 and above. Protective helmets are mandatory.

Rental scooters must carry insurance coverage for third parties.

The minimum equipment scooters must have are brakes, lights – rear and front – tyres and a bell.

Their maximum speed should not exceed 15km/hour. The ministry warned consumers must be careful regarding their choice of scooter if they want to use them in public areas after the law comes into force.

The bills also introduce obligations for importers, manufacturers and sellers as regards minimum equipment and maximum speed.

Rental companies will be licenced by local authorities.

The bills also introduce offences and penalties though no details were immediately available.

Source: Cabinet approves legislation to regulate use of scooters | Cyprus Mail

Pilot traffic cams recorded 500 violations in just two hours at Nicosia junction (Updated) | Cyprus Mail

Newly installed traffic cameras recorded about 500 violations in just two hours at a busy junction in central Nicosia, prompting the transport ministry to delay the rollout of fines.

There are concerns from some that the delay implies that the government is still not fully prepared for implementation to go ahead, with the bills not yet finalised and as a sticking point remains over car rentals.

The initial phase of the new pilot programme inaugurating the eight traffic cameras – four fixed and four mobile – was set to operate until the end of November, only issuing warnings instead of fines, but will now run until the end of the year.

It may seem counterintuitive that a high number of violations being recorded will lead to a longer period without fines but it has been reasoned that the public may need more time to familiarise themselves with the new system.

Many complained that they were unaware of what will be considered a traffic violation, such as crossing the line at the traffic lights while the light is still red (and therefore making it difficult for pedestrians to cross).

It was noted that from October 25 until January 1, 2022, traffic violations recorded by the cameras will instead only lead to a written warning which will be sent to the driver’s home address. The pilot programme has been billed as a period for the company to iron out any kinks and for drivers to acquaint themselves to the new rules.

A former advisor to the justice ministry on road safety matters expressed his dismay at the delay, saying that December is typically one of the deadliest months as regards road fatalities.

“Many young students return from abroad, there is a lot of drinking and drunk driving on the roads, last year we had nine or so deaths during December – is it really worth the delay?” he told the Cyprus Mail.

It is worth noting however that parliament has still not fully ratified the bills which are set to give the green light for the traffic cameras, with a final vote expected next Friday.

It was reported that the car rentals association has expressed its opposition to the billed legislation as it will shift the burden to the companies should a customer fail to pay a traffic fine recorded by the cameras.

Deputy head of the car rentals association Christakis Petsas told the Cyprus Mail that it is not their duty to chase down tourists who may have racked up fines and to act as police officers.

“We’re not in a position to start blocking credit cards, we’re not going to take on the duties of the state in handling fines potentially months after the incident may have occurred,” Petsas told us.

He detailed other issues of concern to the association, such as many tourists not using credit cards to pay for their rental vehicles and potential police requests for personal information leading to lengthy procedures.

Petsas also wondered why it is not possible for the fines to be collected at the airports.

Highlighting the difficulty in collecting fines, he referenced a recent report by the Audit Office that the state is owed tens of millions in unexecuted fine warrants.

“If they can’t collect these fines from MPs, politically exposed persons (PEPs) and the like, then what chance do we have to collect them from tourists abroad?” Petsas told us.

Haris Evripides of the traffic department told local media that more time has also been given to the public so that an information campaign can get underway, to make sure that people are not caught unawares.

He clarified some confusion over who is responsible for the fine: in the first instance, the fine will be sent to the owner of the car but should a second person – such as a spouse or relative – have committed the offence then it is up to the owner to inform the authorities. Those involved have 15 days to file the notice. Should there be a dispute between the owner and the second person then both are responsible.

Cameras will report speeding, running a red light and crossing a stop line. Once these are detected, other offences such as use of a mobile phone while driving, drivers not wearing a seat belt or bikers not wearing a helmet can also be reviewed.

The current plan for the traffic cameras is for 90 fixed cameras at 30 traffic blackspots islandwide and another 20 mobile cameras for speeding for which police will decide the location and hours of operation on a daily basis.

Source: Pilot traffic cams recorded 500 violations in just two hours at Nicosia junction (Updated) | Cyprus Mail

Four MPs among those who have not paid traffic fines | Cyprus Mail

Four MPs are on the list of high-profile people who have not paid their traffic fines for years.

According to daily Phileleftheros, no action has yet been taken against the exposed politicians who failed to settle their out-of-court fines, but a report drafted by the Audit Office is currently being prepared.

The article reports that a total of 23 warrants are pending against the four MPs and that the fines were issued between 2015 and 2020 for a grand amount of €5,374.

MPs have no immunity for traffic violations, a notion that was made clear a few years back in the case of now independent MP Andreas Themistokleous who was caught speeding more than once.

The former attorney-general had proceeded with the criminal prosecution against Themistokleous who was then with ruling Disy party for six cases of traffic violations, and he was forced to pay the fines.

Meanwhile, 69 police officers are also yet to pay for their traffic violation fines. Police chief Stelios Papatheodorou has instructed the directors of each district to urge them to settle their debts as soon as possible.

At the same time, police spokesman Christos Andreou said on Tuesday that all citizens requiring the assistance of the authorities will be checked first in order to make sure they do not have outstanding traffic fines to pay.

According to Andreou, at the moment, the amount of unpaid traffic violation fines in Cyprus has been estimated at almost €300,000.

Meanwhile, a meeting on the topic, presided by Justice Minister Stefi Drakou, was held on Tuesday, with the aim of finding solutions to mitigate the problem.

As mentioned in the meeting, last year due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic and the fact that citizens were not working all the time, actions to collect the fines owed dwindled.

Source: Four MPs among those who have not paid traffic fines | Cyprus Mail