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25 June, 2024
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The sloppiness of our 'Big Brother'

Unraveling the impact and controversies of increased surveillance on Cyprus roads

Panayiotis Rougalas

Panayiotis Rougalas

By Panayiotis Rougalas

The Cypriot's life is filled with cameras: pocket cameras worth 1,000 euros that also take phone calls, home cameras warding off unwanted visitors, and now cameras on the main arteries of the road network. By the end of March 2024, there will be 90 fixed traffic violation control cameras in 30 locations across the Cypriot road network, with 20 mobile cameras operating daily.

In a country where everything works seamlessly, 90 or more traffic control cameras would be considered a blessing, a tribute to those who have lost their lives on Cypriot roads, with the aim of preventing further tragedies. However, not everything in Cyprus functions perfectly; at the state level, terms like 'mediocre' or 'shoddy' might be more appropriate. It's likely that the MPs who approved the camera project two years ago did not anticipate the challenges faced by Cypriot citizens today. It would be revealing to discuss what is said in cafes about 2013 and the MPs, questioning whether they truly understood what they agreed to or disagreed with. However, this is off-topic.

I'll set aside the questionable practices of mobile camera operators, as there is photographic evidence indicating instances of "hide and seek" and incorrect markings. Despite these practices, the focus remains solely on whether citizens adhere to the speed limit. For those opposing this scrutiny, I suggest considering the perspective of the families who have lost loved ones due to accidents caused by high speed.

Now, let's address the issue of fixed cameras, which, among other violations, monitor "red" infractions. Cameras installed on traffic lights lack the technology to accept timers, leading to situations where drivers, while adhering to the speed limit, find themselves breaking the law when the light turns red without warning. Similar confusion arises at intersections with flashing arrows. The decision to extend the "open arrow" limit from 3 to 4 seconds adds to the confusion. The psychological impact on drivers, unsure if they will be caught by a sudden light change, contributes to erratic driving behavior, causing traffic congestion and creating absurd situations.

While the Minister acknowledges the problem, he neither intends to correct it nor seems capable of doing so. Instead, he suggests solving the issue with 'smart traffic lights,' which, according to him, won't include timers or any warning before lights change. This approach seems flawed.

Why must everything be done hastily? Why not install timers on all traffic lights or implement a system to warn drivers of an imminent light change? Why not increase the number of speed limit cameras? The budget dedicated to the Department of Transport for such a crucial project should not be constrained. A straightforward decision could be made to relocate all fixed cameras from intersections to the highway to measure speed limits. Additionally, replacing all traffic lights in Cyprus with technology featuring timers, tightening vehicle MOT checks, and fixing roads would contribute to road safety.

Realistically reducing traffic accidents involves instilling driving culture and discipline. Implementing measures strictly but with a smile, indicating appropriate speeds, and fostering a responsible driving culture is essential. The current plan appears to be designed without a deep understanding of driving culture, serving merely to manipulate accident statistics without considering the flaws in its implementation.

Old racing driver Anastasios Markouizos, known as Javert, has said, 'If you run a red light, you are actually attempting to kill someone else who is running a green light.' In Cyprus, this attempt is penalized with a mere EUR 300. For a state truly committed to road safety, the amount and methods of collection need reconsideration. It's time to reformulate and implement a comprehensive strategy that prioritizes safety over statistics.

[This article was translated from its Greek original and may have been edited for brevity and clarity]

Cyprus  |  traffic  |  road safety

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