Traffic watchdog launches zero casualties on roads this Christmas

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Road safety watchdog Reaction has launched an awareness campaign aiming to ensure zero casualties on Cyprus roads this Christmas season during a year where fatalities are at their highest since 2017.

Cyprus police data shows the number of traffic deaths in 2019 (50) has already exceeded last year’s toll, while they are concerned over a further increase during the festive season.

The watchdog’s campaign comes after the death of teenage biker on Tuesday, who became the 50th victim to die on Cyprus roads. The 17-year-old motorcyclist Alexander Markides lost his life in a road accident in the village of Ypsonas in Limassol. He was the 15th bike rider to die in a traffic accident.

Reaction’s chairman Marios Stavrou presented various actions to be taken during the festive season under the logo “I will be there” (#thaeimaiekei).

The campaign aims to raise awareness amongst drivers with the message to be careful whilst driving as someone is waiting for them at home.

He told the Financial Mirror that not only have the number of fatal road accidents not dropped, but they have also increased by one, compared to last year, while the holiday season has yet to begin.

Stavrou, quoting police data, said in the last five years we have had 250 dead and 1986 seriously injured in traffic accidents across the country.

Of the 250 dead, 22% were motorcyclists, 30% motorists and 25% pedestrians. Over 61% did not wear a seat belt and close to 52% of bike riders did not wear a helmet.

Some 77 people aged over 60 were killed in the last five years, while in the 0-24 age group, 66 died. Around 56% of traffic accidents occur on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and close to 55% between noon and midnight.

The number of elderly people involved in road accidents has increased recently, due to a lack of public transport, pushing the elderly to use a car or walk.

Stavrou stricter procedures should be adopted while renewing driving licenses for people in their golden age.

Reckless driving is the number one cause of accidents with 24.3% while drunk-driving was the second-highest cause at 22%. Speed ​​causes 10% of traffic fatalities.

Cyprus has significantly reduced the number of road accidents and fatalities over the past 20 years, but efforts seemed to have plateaued.

Deaths on roads at highest level for two years

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 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 follow basic road safety rules.

“Cyprus also has one of the highest proportions of pedestrians killed on the roads. Out of 50 killed on Cyprus roads, 13 were pedestrians,” he noted

“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, nor motorcyclists.”

A large number of cyclists have also lost their lives due to reckless motorists, said Evripidou.

He said more policing will 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 deaths.

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.