More than one quarter of fatal road accident victims so far this year were people up to 25 years old, Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said on Monday at the launch of a week-long campaign clamping down on drivers who fail to have both hands of the steering wheel.
Since the beginning of the year 42 people died in 37 fatal road accidents, he said. Eleven of them were under 25 and were killed as a result of careless driving and/or driving under the influence of alcohol, Nicolaou said.
Recalling the results of a study carried out on behalf of his ministry last year, Nicolaou said that Cypriot drivers were found to be hasty, impatient and careless on the road.
He said that a package of bills providing for harsher penalties for those causing fatal and serious accidents is to be tabled before the cabinet within days for approval.
It was hoped, he said, that the bills, in tandem with increased police presence on the roads, would ensure wiser drivers, especially those who are indifferent to the punishment of their actions.
“It is tragic to consider that in a modern society, 16 lost their lives (this year) on the tarmac because they had no seat belts on and another nine because they had no protective helmets on,” Nicolaou said.
He added that it is only through a multifaceted strategy that awareness can be raised and lead to a decrease in the thousands of fines for traffic violations for using a mobile phone while driving and speeding.
The government, he said, is focusing mainly on young drivers and has expanded its cooperation with non-governmental organisations active in the field of road safety such as the Cyprus Youth Organisation.
“By the end of this year we will have a comprehensive plan of targeted interventions that will run in 2019 to raise awareness among the youth and especially young drivers,” he said.
“The training of tomorrow’s drivers” is also being promoted by the introduction last year of the traffic education course in lyceums and tougher regulations for obtaining a driver’s licence.
A driver rehabilitation school is also being established for traffic offenders deemed by the court or police as in need of re-training.
The police campaign against drivers not having both hands on the wheel ends on Sunday and will mainly focus on those using mobile phones while behind the wheel.
On an international basis, police said, breaking the concentration of the driver is one of the main causes in the increased number of traffic accidents.
The use of mobile phones while driving has a drastic impact on the driver’s attention, especially while trying to send a text at the same time.
Those caught using their phone while driving are fined and lose points on their licence.