Despite police efforts, the number of traffic deaths has already exceeded last year’s toll, after a young motorist became the 50th victim to lose his life on Cyprus roads.
Cyprus has significantly reduced the number of road accidents and fatalities over the past 20 years, but efforts seemed to have plateaued.
In 2014, Cyprus mourned the loss of 45 people, with deaths spiking to 57 the following year, dropping back down to 46 in 2016.
In 2017 53 people lost their lives on Cyprus roads, and 49 in 2018.
With the rate of fatalities per population still high, and far from EU targets set in 2010 for member states to halve them by 2020, Cyprus is obliged to reduce road deaths to less than 30 a year.
With Christmas approaching, authorities are particularly concerned as the festive see drivers behaving in a more ‘relaxed’ manner while drunk driving becomes a factor.
Cyprus police are even more concerned that Cypriot drivers have not improved their driving behaviour at all.
Charis Evripidou, deputy chief of the Cyprus Traffic Department told the Financial Mirror that despite the low death rate in the first six months, with the number of fatalities low at 19, the following months were disastrous as 31 people lost their lives in road accidents.
Evripidou said a study of the statistics reveals Cypriots do not know basic road safety rules.
Cyprus also has one of the highest proportions of pedestrians killed on the roads.
“Unfortunately, we see pedestrians being careless, in some cases crossing the road just a few metres away from a pedestrian crossing. On the other hand, it is well known that drivers do not give way to pedestrians.”
A large number of cyclists have also lost their lives due to reckless motorists, said Evripidou.
He said more policing will definitely be needed during the holiday season, but officers cannot be everywhere.
“Traditional policing is at a good standard, but it’s far from enough to prevent road deaths in Cyprus. We need to introduce new ways of policing, such as speed cameras and smarter traffic control systems,” said Evripidou.
He said Cyprus had seen a 20% decrease in accidents at points where speed cameras were previously installed, and he expects their belated reintroduction will help reduce road accidents.
Police believe the introduction of stiffer penalties is a must, but only if the philosophy is altered, so they have a real cost on the offender.
“We do not just want them to pay a fine. We need to make drivers feel the consequences of their actions before it’s too late,” said Evripidou.
“That is why the police have asked parliament to introduce penalties such as confiscating the offender’s vehicle and suspending their driving license made easier,” he added.