By Andreas Izamis
Speed limits on Cyprus’ motorways could be set to increase to 120 km/h from 100km/h if the Justice Ministry is able to garner enough support.
“We have adopted the idea of increasing the speed limit as described in the road safety report conducted by the University of Cyprus, but there have been reactions to it,” Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou told The Cyprus Weekly.
He said, however, that a total review of speed, limits on all the islands roads will be conducted and, where necessary, or possible, relevant changes will be made.
“The idea in the increase is effectively to do away with the leeway police give drivers, which in actuality could be interpreted as condoning an element of illegality,” said the minister.
The increase in the speed limit and amendments aimed at increasing penalties for traffic violations, in some cases as much as 500%, have been proposed in order to bring Cyprus in line with most European countries in the battle against traffic – related deaths.
Nicolaou believes that penalties without consequences are not a deterrent.
“If drivers are aware of the severity of the punishment their actions will bring on them, it will act as a deterrent,” said Nicolaou.
“We will finally reach the same level as the rest of the European Union,” said Marios Stavrou president of Reaction Cyprus, an NGO working for road safety.
Stavrou argues that the increase in traffic penalties is more of a short-term solution rather than a long-term one ongoing but forms part of an integral approach in combatting road deaths and bad driving behaviour.
“By itself, the increase in penalties is a short-term solution; however, that, combined with awareness and education, will set about a change in driving behaviour in Cyprus,” said Stavrou.
“It will take 10-15 years to achieve this; introducing legislation is one thing, changing attitudes takes a lot longer,” he added.
Nicolaou disclosed that negotiations are ongoing, with the education ministry to include lessons for traffic awareness in high schools, while a study in how to approach focus groups with regards to road safety is expected to be completed by June.
Stavrou is also of the opinion that the issuance of licences should be carefully scrutinised.
“The issuing of licences is the last step before a new motorist goes on the road; we must ensure that no holes exist in the system and we should correct existing procedures,” said Stavrou.
The Justice Minister also revealed that the Department of Public Transport is in the final stages of preparing a bill making provision for computer-simulated driving-related crisis management, to be included in the driver’s licence examinations.
The proposed amendments also make provision for offending drivers to attend special courses or, where appropriate, take an exam.