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Time to buckle up

By Paula Manoli-Gray

I read some very alarming – but equally unsurprising – news last week regarding road safety. It was reported that police statistics show that out of the island’s road deaths in 2016, 63% of people in car accidents were not wearing a seatbelt, and 46% of motorcyclists were not wearing helmets.

And it gets worse still – driving under the influence of alcohol and speeding, as well as not wearing a seatbelt or helmet, caused the majority of road fatalities in 2016… a whopping 97% to be exact.

Furthermore, it was stated that ‘many lives could have been saved if more people buckled up or wore helmets’.
These are very depressing statistics, but no one on the island will be in the least bit surprised to know that the message is still not getting through to people.

On the way back from Paphos to Larnaca last weekend in torrential rain, we watched as car after car sped past us with motorists on their mobiles and the majority indeed not wearing seatbelts.

When I told my husband the statistics I had read, he told me that he rarely sees motorists wearing a seatbelt. As he has an hour drive to get to work and leaves in the early hours of the morning, he has ample opportunity to observe this on the motorway, and further commented that there is a tendency for twin-cab drivers to be the worse offenders.

But it is not only on the motorways that road ignorance occurs. We were shocked to our very core when, driving in Larnaca one day, we saw a battered car with a young child in the back – around 4 years of age. Not only was she not in a car seat, but she was also holding a pair of scissors and cutting paper whilst kneeling on the back seat, looking out of the back window. This incident tops the usual sight of parents driving whilst drinking hot coffee, with their child bouncing up and down on the front passenger seat without a seatbelt on.

But why? Barely a day goes by without hearing of the loss of life on our roads, so why are people not more concerned about their own driving and the risks they are taking?

Clearly, there is a lack of education – and policing. But we cannot simply educate the drivers of tomorrow; we have an entire generation of older drivers who cannot shift to modern safety standards after spending most of their adult life driving without a seatbelt, under the influence of alcohol, and whilst smoking, simply because ‘that is how it was in my day’.

The end of 2017 is a long way off. I can only pray the statistics will dramatically have changed by then.

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