Insufficient sentences are the reason behind road accidents says Minister of Justice

Road violations are not sufficiently managed with existing penalties, stated Justice and Public Order Minister Ionas Nicolaou on Tuesday, noting that insufficient sentences for traffic violations and the absence of immediate measures for their implementation do not decrease traffic injuries or fatalities in Cyprus.

He was speaking during the presentation of the findings of a study on the sentences for road violations, prepared by the Law Department of the University of Cyprus under Professor Andreas Karpardis.

The study is part of the ministry`s strategy to find effective means to reduce road accidents. It contains 21 specific legislative proposals.

The Minister presented a series of recommendations as prepared by the Ministry of Justice for amendment of the current legislation and said the ministry is prepared to immediately table the relevant legislation, even within the next 30 days.

According to police information, the number of car accidents between 2011-15 was 6,562. However, this number only involves accidents that were investigated by the Police and according to the president of the Insurance Companies association, Stefi Drakou, “in reality the number is estimated to be “around 180 thousand, which is scary, compared to Cyprus size”.

Despite the progress achieved in reducing road accidents, the number of fatalities remains high. In 2014, Cyprus ranked 12th in road deaths in population ratio among the 28 EU countries while Greece ranked 22nd.

In his speech, Nicolaou said that there are laws that were enacted more than 40 years ago and need to be reviewed.

Kapardis said that the sentences which the courts apply in road offences, such as fines, points and withdrawing the driver`s license, do not serve as a deterrent factor, especially due to the low chances of locating and punishing the culprit. It proposes strict yet targeted sentences and the need to formulate a National Strategy for Road Safety.

The study, which uses data from the Traffic & Accident Statistics` Report, the number of road accidents went down from 7,262 in 1982 to 1,153 in 2014, however the percentage of fatalities significantly rose from 12.8 per 1,000 accidents in 1982, to 39 in 2014. Road accidents mostly take place in populated areas, reaching 82%, while only 5% were caused on the highways during 2010-2014.

Kapardis said that according to a Police report, the main cause of fatal accidents is alcohol (27%) followed by reckless driving 23%, driving on the wrong side (14%) and speed 13%.

The UCY professor expressed hope that the traffic camera system returns, as during its operation back in 2007, road accidents on the island dropped by 14%. The system was dropped after problem with the tenders but is expected to be reintroduced this year.

The study proposes the number of points be reduced on drivers` licences from 12 to six and the maximum speed to increase to 120km/hr and minimum to be 60km/hour.
Another proposal notes that if a person is driving with a speed limit of 161km/hr or over than 30% of the speed limit, not to issue a fine on the spot but to present that person to court where he/she will have their licence removed and fined or and imprisonment of up to six months.

The sentence increases if the driver flees the scene of accident that resulted with a fatality or injury of another person. It proposes a three-year sentence or a fine that does not exceed 5 thousand euros or both.

The prison sentence for dangerous driving goes up to two years imprisonment instead of one and confiscating the vehicle for a month.
Reckless driving or driving under the influence of drug, alcohol or medicine or when a driver is tired is punished with up to two instead of one year imprisonment and the fine from 341,59 euro to 500.

The use of mobile phones while driving which is now fined with 85 euro should be substituted with two to four points on a driver`s licence.

source: CNA