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15 June, 2024
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From fines to fine lines

Behind the Minister's assurances, a world of fines, frustration, and absurdity unveiled



By Panayiotis Kaparis

The face of the honorable Minister of Transport, Alexis Vafeadi, conveyed a different message compared to his statements before the Parliament's Transportation Committee. He reiterated that no traps were set for drivers by photo-recognition cameras, deferring to experts and technocrats. He listened to numerous complaints, or rather, numerous truths from Members of Parliament, sharing in their testimonies, but that was the extent of his involvement. Even when he dared to speak about the exorbitant 300 euro fines for crossing the line at traffic lights and making right turns, he faced a public rebuke from the police spokesperson. In the meantime, two out of three among the hundreds of thousands "penalized" did not pay their fines, and many did not go to the post office to collect their citations. In essence, late-night car races persist on roads with traffic lights, and intoxicated individuals continue to harm innocent people. Lawmakers complained that cameras "pursue" workers on their way to work, positioned at speed limit change points, on downhill roads, hidden behind trees and in apartment buildings, and inconspicuous warning signs are not always in place.

In a democratic state, the greatest danger lies in the hands of those in uniform. It is no coincidence that there are always political overseers within the security forces, and religious leaders never stand above the law. In the case of the military, when they seize power, we witness coups and national disasters, as happened decades ago in Cyprus and Greece. In the case of the police, when they exceed their political superiors, we see social explosions, an increase in violence, and unrest, with Cyprus being no exception. As for the clergy, the consequences are often tragic and overwhelmingly destructive. Good and rational politicians, apart from popular acceptance, understand that one plus one doesn't always equal two and that citizens are not mere cogs in a machine but individuals with passions, desires, depressions, problems, and ultimately, souls.

The revelations made by the Members of Parliament regarding the camera traps, for those who can read between the lines, indeed struck terror due to the consequences of this measure, which has now forcibly affected almost all fearful citizens of Cyprus due to the economic crisis. On a single night, law-abiding citizens who had never been involved in accidents or paid a euro in fines throughout their lives now face the risk of losing their licenses, dealing with penalty points, and potentially wiping out their savings. Those who earn a modest thousand euros a month have no intention of paying, as it would leave them destitute. The problem is equally daunting for retirees who visit doctors, care for their grandchildren, or take trips to escape the hardships of life. The cameras at traffic lights have become a true nightmare, resembling or rather replicating the myth of the Scylla and Charybdis, which opened and devoured ships. Every time a driver passes through, they endure psychological pressure, at the very least, wondering if they will be slapped with a 300 euro fine. The aftermath often leads to visits to psychologists and psychiatrists.

The most striking statement during the Transportation Committee session came from Member of Parliament Elias Myrianthous, who referred to "fine addiction" while countering the police spokesperson's argument that they are not targeting drivers, but rather focusing on reducing accidents rather than collecting taxes. History brings to mind the absurdity of the hundreds of illegal speed bumps on the roads. Several years ago, ministers and police officers celebrated their discovery of the secret to reducing accidents. During the same period in Greece, all these speed bumps, known as "samarakia," were removed after scientific research demonstrated their dangers to health, including carcinogenic emissions, spinal issues, and significant damage to vehicles. Since then, numerous articles have been published in newspapers, but it's like talking to a brick wall for the deaf. Fortunately, Member of Parliament Christos Orfanidis took the initiative to address this issue in Parliament, and the removal of speed bumps began, or at least they stopped being installed. One wonders what all those who celebrated statistical figures back then have to say to their conscience about the spread and rise of cancers, endless health problems, and environmental pollution. Thankfully, no one is irreplaceable on this earth.

[This article was translated from its Greek original and may not accurately convey the content, nuances, and cultural context, some aspects may not be fully captured in the translation]

Cyprus  |  cameras  |  traffic

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