Traffic cameras start for real
By Leo Leonidou

MOTORISTS beware. From tomorrow, anybody caught speeding or jumping a red light will be fined and have their licence endorsed with penalty points.

The long overdue traffic camera system was switched on three weeks ago, with the initial grace period ending tomorrow.

Forty cameras (33 fixed and seven mobile) have been activated across the island, with police chief Charalambos Koulentis telling a news conference that, “the aim is to cut the number of people killed aimlessly on our roads, which last year stood at 102.”

Transport Minister Harris Thrassou noted that, “Cyprus has a road death rate which is 40 per cent higher than the EU average,” and cited the example of France, “where deaths have been reduced by 35 per cent over the past four years thanks to traffic cameras.”

Director of Traffic Police Theodoros Achilleos explained that the fine will be one pound for every kilometre per hour over the speed limit, as it is currently. For drivers caught jumping a red light, the fine will be £50 plus two penalty points on their driving licence. Speeding drivers will also receive penalty points under the existing system.

The traffic chief also noted that, “if three-quarters of a vehicle crosses the white line while waiting at a red light, the driver will be fined. We hope this will put an end to the ridiculous practice of drivers creeping relentlessly forward at the lights.”

He confirmed that there would be a small margin of tolerance regarding speed, but urged motorists to stick to the prescribed speed limit.

The cameras will also be able to tell whether a motorist and/or passengers are breaking additional laws, such as not wearing seatbelts and talking on mobile phones. “If somebody is caught speeding or jumping a red light by a camera, they will face additional penalties if it is found that they were breaking other motoring laws,” he said.

Initially, tickets will be hand-delivered to offenders’ homes, rather than through the post, but this will be changed shortly, according to Achilleos.

It also emerged that since the cameras went live on September 18, there have been problems catching offending motorbikes.

“Their licence plates are too small so the system can’t recognise them,” said Achilleos. “Another problem is that plates do not sit flush on machines, meaning they cannot be read properly.” He said that the Communication and Works Ministry has been notified in order to change existing legislation.

The police also released statistics on the success of the initial test period. Island-wide, from September 19 to October 5, 876,427 vehicles were checked. Of those, 10,009 broke the law, a figure of 1.14 per cent.

Costas Papadopoulos, who is in charge of the photo-radar system, said that, “the worst offenders were seen in Larnaca, with 9.3 per cent of vehicles checked committing some kind of offence.”

In the UK, however, motoring groups last month questioned the value of cameras after police figures revealed that only one in 20 collisions last year was caused by a driver breaking the speed limit.

The most common cause of accidents was failing to look properly, a factor in 32 per cent of crashes, followed by failing to judge another vehicle’s speed (18 per cent) and driving carelessly or recklessly (16 per cent).

Papadopoulos said that in Cyprus, he had noticed a combination of factors contributing to accidents. “These include excess speed, the human factor (carelessness), alcohol, tiredness and inexperience. Cyprus is different to many other countries in the fact that there is no proper public transport system, meaning everybody needs a car, in turn resulting in more young and inexperienced drivers on the roads.”

There are plans for 450 cameras island-wide over the next four years, at a cost of 6.5 million euros.

Copyright © Cyprus Mail 2006