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CYPRUS: Need for speed is killing us

17 June, 2019 | Posted By: Charlie Charalambous

 

As a father of three boys who drive – one is a learner – I always worry about them being safe on the road in the hope they are sensible behind the wheel.


Even if they are good drivers you know there are enough irresponsible risk takers out there that make driving on Cyprus roads a treacherous journey into the unknown.

Younger drivers crave the need for speed and show off while their behaviour on two-wheels is even more cavalier and logic-defying.

Accidents can and will happen but as a society, we have a duty to ensure that we do everything to reduce the level of danger on our highways and byways.

Our actions have consequences, but this law of human nature seems to be ignored by all and sundry when it comes to driving on Cyprus roads – among the most lethal in Europe.

With non-existent public transport, the car is a necessary part of our daily lives, be it commuting to work, doing the school run or the family shopping.

Whether it be on two wheels or four, we have become wholly reliant on mechanised transport, apart from the odd cyclist brave enough to navigate mayhem on our streets.

Sometimes it is hard to believe that Cypriot drivers have actually passed a driving test or even had lessons by a qualified instructor.

Having said that, I’m sure the older generation just gave a nod and a wink while handing over an envelope before going on their merry way.

I don’t want to sound ageist, but elderly drivers seem to be convinced this is the 1800s where indicating your next move is unnecessary, as are markings in the road – they simply plough in a straight line believing nothing will get in their way.

Understandably, in the 1800s there was no right of way, roundabouts, traffic lights, road signs or stop lines.

Most Cypriot motorists are still living in the era before the combustible engine was invented.

They consider the machine they ride is a bit like a horse, it will take them where they want to go regardless of the terrain.

After bypassing the industrial revolution entirely, Cypriots have happily adapted to digital technology as a welcome distraction from the rigours of keeping both hands on the wheel.

Speed cameras are the one technological innovation that has baffled us, they save lives by bringing a semblance of discipline among road users, yet the authorities have a blind spot for them.

Bungling, bureaucracy and red tape (Cyprus’ second-best cocktail invention behind the Brandy sour) is the only plausible explanation for Cyprus not having traffic cameras that would certainly reduce fatalities and serious injury.

Preventing the needless loss of life should be a priority, yet still, we wait for the re-introduction of speed cameras to bring some normality back to our roads where reckless driving rules supreme.

It is no coincidence that Cyprus ranks a shameful fourth from bottom in Europe for fatal urban road accidents while 31% of all deaths are bike riders, a European Transport Safety Council report revealed this week.

Urban mortality is the highest in Romania with 105 deaths per million inhabitants four times the EU average, followed by Croatia with 88 deaths, Serbia 74 and then Cyprus with 60.

Cyprus was also among those countries where progress in reducing deaths had stalled, along with the UK and Spain.

Over 50% of all road accidents occur on urban roads in Cyprus, Romania, Croatia, Serbia and Portugal.

When it comes to road deaths involving mopeds or motorbikes again Cyprus scores high with 31% of all fatalities involving this category. Greece tops the death list with a 43% share.

Experts say the high death toll is down to young and inexperienced drivers such as students and delivery riders.

Many of these deaths are attributed to the none-wearing of crash helmets, speeding and a lack of training.

It also needs to be said there is a lack of respect from car drivers for those on two wheels, while the tendency to drive at high speeds is another contributory factor.

There is also the widespread problem of illegal parking – on pavements and wrong side of the street – which hinders visibility for road users and pedestrians.

Ignoring the rules of the road, aggressive driving, lack of awareness, ignorance and sheer unadulterated selfishness are all killers.

When bad driving becomes the norm there is plenty of scope to feel uneasy about our odds of survival on Cyprus roads.

Awareness campaigns don’t seem to be working while sporadic police clampdowns are not effective enough to eradicate youths on bikes breaking all the rules.

Somewhere along the journey, we lost the highway code as we became angrier, anxious and more irritated at the wheel. It’s not a good look.