Justice minister Emily Yioliti met on Friday with the chief of police Stelios Papatheodorou to discuss ways of curbing road accidents, from which 23 people lost their lives just this year, and which are widely accepted to be caused by an broader lack of conscientiousness in the island’s driving culture.
The justice minister announced that checks to curb unlawful parking, such as parking on pavements and in spots for the disabled, will be intensified, and called on the Cyprus parliament to pick up the pace of ongoing efforts to increase penalties.
Yioliti stressed that the key to dealing with the high numbers of road accidents recorded in Cyprus is the broader contribution of society through both individual and collective efforts toward maintaining safety on the road, and called for a more active role by those who have demonstrated poor driving behaviour in the past in view of educating others of the consequences.
“Before penalties, before the state of the road network, before policing, it is the behaviour of each and every one of us that is important – our behaviour while driving, the choice we make regarding whether we will drive defensively or aggressively, whether we will give way and whether we will show more patience with the elderly pedestrian trying to cross the road, with the cyclist, with the learner. All these people could have been our grandmother, our child, our friend,” she said.
But Yioliti also stressed that personal responsibility “does not release the state from its own responsibilities. More policing and a more intense presence of the force on the roads is necessary,” she said, adding that “higher penalties are also necessary,” noting that these should be deterring and strict where needed.
But penalties should also be educational, Yioliti said. “I would like to see past offenders that were unfortunately marked by a collision share their experience with students as an example of what not to do. I want to see drivers who were convicted of irrational driving behaviour help children across pedestrian crossings to get to school every morning and noon. I want to see them conduct community service at municipal parks or on the road network.”
Also necessary is the improvement of the road network itself, Yioliti went on, noting that this is something she will work on with the transport ministry.
“There’s no more time to waste,” she stressed, noting that it is time for announcements to become actions.