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14 June, 2024
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Officials ponder responsibility following quadruple fatality

Limassol fatalities prompt Transport Minister's urgent meeting

Ioanna Kyriakou

‘’Ambulance crews experience road fatalities on a more personal level. When you rescue someone, you connect with them. If they die on the way, or if you find them dead, you feel the chill of death in your soul.’’ 

This is how Riana Konstantinou, head of the Ambulance Service, described to "K" the experience of those who are on the front lines of traffic collisions, after the horrific tragedy that marked the beginning of the New Year in Cyprus.

The news of the four deaths of two grandchildren, aged 27 and 17, and their grandparents, aged 73 and 74, which happened half an hour after midnight in Limassol, shocked the public and brought the issue of road safety and accountability back to the spotlight. Experts analyzed in "K" the reasons why fatal road collisions continue to plague Cypriot society and what needs to change, emphasizing road awareness as the main factor, and shared the hard moments of saving our fellow humans from the wreckage of their cars.

The victims of the four deaths

Vafeadis consults experts

"For every accident, we need to identify the causes, learn from them, and improve the road network," Transport Minister Alexis Vafeadis told K, adding that besides the measures taken to regulate the drivers' behavior, more actions are needed to shape the environment they move in, so as to discourage speeding. Regarding the four deaths, the minister said that some citizens have contacted him and proposed the construction of a roundabout at the site of the accident, which will be discussed with the ministry's experts.

"It could be a roundabout or some other traffic-calming devices to reduce speed. Obviously, something needs to be done at various points of the road network," Mr. Vafeadis said, stressing that road awareness is something that needs to be further developed, as "some people completely ignore it" and also to examine how the ministry can implement traffic safety measures. "I have asked for a meeting on this matter, I want to know the availability of our experts to see how we can handle this issue," he explained.

School for offenders in the works

"The road awareness of every driver is the first thing, and then the state needs to increase the information and education," the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Transport Marinos Mousioutas told "K" about what needs to change to reduce road collisions.

He noted that traffic and road safety are issues that constantly concern the Parliament and that an important project that is being promoted right now is the creation of a school where those who commit minor offenses will be sent, in order to attend some hours of road safety courses that will include practical training. Mr. Mousioutas said that he will contact the relevant ministry in the next few days to find out where the project stands and how soon it can be completed and put into operation.

"The responsibility lies with every driver"

Police spokesman Christos Andreou also argued that "the responsibility lies with each driver." Referring to the police's work, he said that in December alone they issued 9,600 tickets, while if the tickets from the photo radar system are counted, they exceed 40,000. Besides the enforcement actions, he added, the police also carry out prevention actions such as lectures in schools, camps, and other organized groups, which have reached about 21,500 people. 

There is also the Traffic Education Park, which is visited by children mainly from Primary Education, which, as Mr. Andreou said, "is an ideal age for a child to develop road awareness." "We have done over 150 lectures with about 6,500 children," he added. Regarding the penalties, Mr. Andreou said that they are already severe, giving the example of the 300 euro fine for running a red light.

The difficult moments of rescue

The head of the Ambulance Service, Riana Konstantinou, spoke to "K" about the human aspect of the issue and the hard work of the people on the front line, the rescuers. She said: "Ambulance crews experience road fatalities on a more personal level. When you rescue someone, you connect with them.

If they die on the way, or if you find them dead, you feel the coldness of death in your soul." She added that it is a feeling of grief, an unbearable sorrow and sadness. "Many times, crews face horrible images and the thought of telling their mother, father, children that their loved one is dead is like feeling their scream and pain, the worst feeling anyone can experience."

Mrs. Konstantinou said that the problem is that you cannot easily overcome and move on from such an event. "It doesn't matter if the mood changes because you're out of service. You carry it inside you and you will carry it forever. It cannot be erased, the pain and images are engraved deep into the rescuers' cells.

At the same time, she clarified that the psychologist's service has been added to the ambulance service and that the crews talk among themselves and analyze the incidents, the images, what they did well and what they did wrong, which helps a lot.

"However, how anyone will experience such an event, to what extent and how they will cope with it is purely a personal matter," she said.

In the case of Police Officers, Mr. Andreou said that most of them are family men and that it is very hard when they see gruesome images, trapped, dead and seriously injured people.

"They try in any case to provide first aid until the ambulance and the Fire Brigade arrive, while many times our own members had to take injured people to the hospital, in cases where traffic accidents happened in hard to reach places," said Mr. Andreou.

34 deaths in 2023

The number of fatal road collisions may show a decreasing trend in the last three years, since according to police data the deaths in 2020 were 48, in 2021 45, in 2022 37 and in 2023 34, however there is room for further reduction of this number and as stated in "K" by the experts, this can be achieved both by enhancing road awareness and safety with training and proper information, as well as by improving the road network with measures that will prevent high-speed driving.

[This article was translated from its Greek original]

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