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MPs set to approve tougher penalties to crack down on traffic offenders

Traffic offenders will need to dig deep into their pockets under long-awaited tougher penalties set to be approved by the House of Representatives by the end of June.

The House Transport Committee has hammered out consensus on the seven bills after amending the initial proposals submitted by the government.

The steep fines for offences such as drunk driving, speeding and failing to wear a seat belt come as authorities finalise a new strategic plan to slash the number of road fatalities in Cyprus by half in the next decade.

The number of road fatalities in Cyprus in recent years has ranged around 50 every year. Police hope tougher penalties and traffic cameras for which tenders have been launched will help stem the bloodshed.

A total of 15 people have already died on the island’s roads so far this year, compared to 11 in the same period last year.

The House Transport Committee has reached consensus on the new fines, although amendments may still be introduced before the seven bills go to the plenary for approval.

As things stand now the new fines are:

  1. For not wearing a seat belt, the fine will rise to €150 and then €300 if there is a second offence within three years.
  2. The fine for not wearing a helmet will rise from the current €85 to €200 and then €300 for a second violation.
  3.  Use of mobile phone while driving will be punished with a fine of €150 (from the current €85). It will rise to €300 in case of a second violation within three years.
  4. A traffic light violation will carry a fine of €300 (now €85).
  5. The fine for parking in a spot reserved for the disabled will rise from €85 to €300.
  6. Parking on a yellow line will rise to €100 from €65.
  7. Overtaking on a pedestrian crossing will rise from €65 to €200.
  8. For speeding: for speeding by 30% above the limit the fine will rise from the current €1 per km to €2; for speeding by 50% above the limit the fine will rise to €3 per km;  for speeding by 70% above the limit the fine will rise to €5 per km;  if the driver is speeding above 75% of the limit, the driver will appear in court which can impose a sentence of up to two years in jail and/or a fine of €6,000
  9. For drunk driving: for alcohol levels from 23mg to 35mg the fine will rise from €100 to €125, from 36mg to 55mg from €200 to €250 and from 56mg to 70mg from €300 to €500.
  10. Driving under the influence of drugs will be punishable with jail or up to three years and/or a fine of €10,000.
  11. If there are more than one offences, for example speeding while under the influence of alcohol, penalties will double and offenders will appear in court (there is no out of court fine) where they will face a sentence of up to four years in jail and/or €15,000 fine.
  12. Reckless driving will be punishable with jail of up to two years and/or €6,000 fine. If under the influence of alcohol, drivers will be banned from driving for two months.
  13. Driving without insurance will carry a fine of €200 and 3-6 points.
  14. Driving without MOT  will carry a fine of €300 for professional drivers and €150 for drivers of private vehicles.
  15. The penalty for causing a fatal traffic accident will rise from up to four to up to 10 years in prison and a fine of €30,000. Abandoning the scene of an accident will carry the same penalty.
  16. An amendment will allow police to confiscate the vehicle of drivers caught driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol.

 

Source: MPs set to approve tougher penalties to crack down on traffic offenders

Confusion over drug-testing policies on drivers – Cyprus Mail

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).

 

Source: Confusion over drug-testing policies on drivers – Cyprus Mail

Minister says licences will be immediately revoked for speeders, drunk drivers – Cyprus Mail

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.

Source: Minister says licences will be immediately revoked for speeders, drunk drivers – Cyprus Mail

Police pledge bad driving crackdown after death toll rise – Cyprus Mail

The police on Thursday vowed to crack down on driving violations, from the minor to the more serious, in a bid to stem the tide of road deaths.

At a powwow in Nicosia chaired by police chief Kypros Michaelides, traffic police officials from across the island decided a zero-tolerance policy on traffic infractions, particularly those identified as the leading causes of serious accidents – speeding, driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, not wearing a seatbelt or a helmet for motorcycles, and speaking on mobile phones while behind the wheel.

Some of the measures include: more frequent checks on more vulnerable categories, such as motorcyclists, young individuals and senior citizens; extra checks and constant policing mainly on the secondary road network; alcohol and drug tests on motorists throughout the day; and intensive policing of accident-prone spots.

Other than enforcement, the police will continue its drive to raise awareness in schools, army camps, as well as in presentations to organisations.

The police will additionally be drafting proposals to make it tougher on people to get a motorcycle licence and on senior citizens upon reaching the age where they have to renew their driving licence.

Police were spurred into action after 2019 saw the highest road death toll in two years. Last year, 52 people were killed in traffic-related incidents.

It is hoped that the anticipated installation of traffic cameras, as well as coming tougher penalties, will help curb the loss of life.

Also on Thursday, traffic police unveiled the latest additions to their fleet – 14 ‘smart’ patrol cars equipped with automatic number-plate recognition and GPS systems.

The police force will soon be acquiring another 10 ‘smart’ patrol cars of the station-wagon variety, to be deployed mostly on the secondary road network.

Source: Police pledge bad driving crackdown after death toll rise – Cyprus Mail

Drivers on phone cause majority of fatal accidents in the north – Cyprus Mail

The main cause of fatal traffic accidents in the north is the use of mobile phones while driving, Turkish Cypriot media reported on Friday.

Traffic police chief Huseyin Kadir Çete said 80 per cent of drivers who caused a fatal accident were using their mobile phones, media reported.

In 2018, there were 24 deaths in the north caused by 22 traffic accidents, while in 2019 until December 23 the number rose to 29 deaths as a result of 23 traffic accidents.

For the same period in the south, the fatal traffic accidents last year rose to 49 while 2019 saw 51 road traffic deaths until December 27.

According to Cete, many drivers are also distracted by putting make up on in the car, and drinking and eating while driving.

Source: Drivers on phone cause majority of fatal accidents in the north – Cyprus Mail

New road fatality brings total to 52 this year – Cyprus Mail

Yet another road fatality occurred on Friday when a 45-year-old man died after the car he was driving collided head-on with another vehicle in Nisou.

On board the 45-year-old’s car was the man’s child, who sustained a leg injury.

The female driver of the other vehicle involved in the accident was injured slightly, and treated at Nicosia general hospital.

The latest deadly road accident brings the number of fatalities so far this year to 52.

Traffic police officer Stelios Panagides urged the public to drive carefully.

“Unfortunately these days some family will have lost a loved one. The blood doesn’t stop flowing on the tarmac.”

 

Source: New road fatality brings total to 52 this year – Cyprus Mail

Over 850 drivers booked for traffic offences over the holiday – Cyprus Mail

Eleven people were booked for driving under the influence of drugs over the holiday period.

In just four days there were 854 bookings for drunk driving, speeding, using a mobile phone and not wearing a seat belt. Among the offences, 11 were drug-related.

Head of traffic police Yiannis Georgiou called the number “worrying” and noted how dangerous it was to drive while intoxicated in any form.

“When you are under the influence of drugs you are a certain road danger,” he said.

“In line with these circumstances the force will decide on more drastic measures to reduce road deaths,” the traffic police chief added on Friday.

This year recorded the highest number of road deaths in two years with a toll of 51.

A bill to increase the fines related to traffic offences is expected to go to the plenum in January and be implemented by February.

Also, a total of 110 traffic cameras will be installed on the roads next year.

The new bill foresees penalty rises for hit and runs, running a red light, parking on pavements and taking parking spots reserved for disabled people in addition to speeding and drink driving.

Police will also introduce vehicle seizures, lower alcohol levels for drivers who had their licence suspended after completing 12 penalty points and enable courts to issue driving bans pending an investigation.

 

Source: Over 850 drivers booked for traffic offences over the holiday – Cyprus Mail

New laws in sight after bad year on roads – Cyprus Mail

A fatal traffic accident earlier this week pushed the number of deaths on the roads to the highest it’s been in two years, but the police traffic chief on Tuesday said it was hoped things would finally improve with the implementation of stiffer penalties in February.

“We know there is a very serious problem regarding fatal accidents on our country’s roads,” Chief of Traffic Police Yiannis Georgiou told the Cyprus Mail. Last year 49 people died on the roads and in 2017, the toll was 53.

The death toll on the roads became the highest in the last two years when 21-year-old Panayiotis Panayiotou became the 51st victim in 2019 on Sunday, taking Cyprus further, rather than nearer it’s target under the EU of less than 30 deaths by 2020.

And with the festive period always a peak time for accidents there are fears this year’s final number will climb in the last days of the year. The inclement weather is not helping Georgiou said.

“The reasons behind the coming days’ possible road accidents might be linked to the bad weather that is affecting Cyprus, rather than drunk driving or speeding.

“The recent storms are another reason why motorists should pay even more attention on the road.”

Despite months of delays, Georgiou said the bill outlining stiffer penalties for road offences, first submitted in March 2019, “should go to the plenum in January and by February the new laws will be implemented and effective on Cyprus’ roads.”

Penalties will be raised for hit and runs, running a red light, parking on pavements and taking parking spots reserved for disabled people in addition to speeding and drink driving.

Police will also introduce vehicle seizures, lower alcohol levels for drivers who had their licence suspended after completing 12 penalty points and enable courts to issue driving bans pending an investigation.

The bill will update penalties relating to speeding and driving under the influence of alcohol or drugs, driving without a licence, failure to wear a seatbelt or crash helmet, and using a phone while driving.

Under the new laws, offenders face up to three months in jail or a fine up to €1,500 for driving over the limit with penalties rising according to the alcohol levels.

Reckless driving that ends up causing bodily harm will be punishable with up to three years in jail and or a fine of up to €10,000, whereas anyone involved in a hit and run with a fatality faces up to 10 years in jail and or up to €30,000.

Fines for speeding will increase from €1 per km to €5 and using a phone while driving will fetch a €300 fine instead of the current €85.

Also, a total of 110 traffic cameras will also be installed on the roads by 2020.

“We are running campaigns every month, warning motorists of the dangers of driving under the influence, of speeding and of talking on their phones while at the wheel.

“We are taking these issues very seriously. People need to understand that their lives are at stake while driving,” Georgiou said.

Meanwhile, the Cyprus Youth Council (CYC) has launched a campaign under the slogan #TakeCare, which hopes to spread awareness about road safety.

The main idea behind the campaign is that youth should not just receive the campaign’s message but transmit it as well.

“We are cooperating with police officers and will run a workshop in Paralimni in January 2020 and we are trying to set one up in Larnaca too,” the initiative’s organiser Stelios Marathovouniotis said.

He said though “the problem in Cyprus is a cultural one.”

“Young people speed on the roads to show off their cars. This needs to change, it’s as important as the parliament bills.

“That’s why we want young people to be at the helm of our campaign, we think they will deliver a stronger message.”

Source: New laws in sight after bad year on roads – Cyprus Mail