A government bill package heading to the House on Friday is not only proposing stiffer penalties for traffic violations but also fast-tracking many ways of dealing with offenders.
Last week, seven amendments and a one traffic regulations bill were approved by the Cabinet, essentially introducing stiffer penalties both in terms of money costs and prison time for violators. The bill package will first need to be debated and pass the House before coming into law.
Some of the increases in fines target offences including the use of a handheld device such as a mobile phone and not wearing a seat belt or helmet, both which are going up from €85 to €300. Other increases include illegal parking in handicap spaces that would cost €200. Parking on the pavement or designated sidewalk in some areas will cost drivers €100, a jump from €85.
Combined charges and sentences
The proposed legislation is also combining offences in cases where victims die, so that violations such as driving under the influence or leaving the scene of an accident could be added to manslaughter. In other words, it will be possible to charge drivers with driving while legally drunk or abandoning a victim that cause a fatality.
Justice Minister Ionas Nicolaou said it was time for drivers to face the enormity of the situation and the consequences of their actions.
“When we have cases where drivers leave the scene of an accident, and if it becomes fatal, the only appropriate charge is manslaughter. We cannot be looking at just two to three years as it is today,” Nicolaou said.
The maximum sentence for leaving the scene of an accident where another person dies as a result is being proposed as 10 years and/or €30,000, as well as driver’s licence suspension for no less than a full year.
Straight to trial
The government-sponsored bill also makes it less complicated for authorities to put drivers on trial within 24 hours when a serious offence is involved, while a procedure for an immediate request to suspend a driver’s permit will also be provided.
“It is not okay for someone to drive on the highway 200 kilometres per hour, get arrested, charged, and then get back in his vehicle and drive home,” the minister said.
Cases where a Breathalyzer test registers alcohol breath over 70μg/100ml will not be issued fines but drivers will have to go to court. But cases with violations between 22-35μg/100ml will jump from €100 to €125 and gradually go up until €500 in cases with 56-70μg/100ml, much higher than the maximum of €300 today.
Police will have the right to withhold a vehicle also in cases where the driver is found to be under the influence of hallucinogenic drugs.
But it was not clear whether the law would allow another person such as a passenger or next to kin to drive the vehicle, as the law provides for traffic police to seize vehicular property and deny access in cases of drivers under the influence.
Speeding fines are also going up, jumping from €1 to €5 for each additional kilometre over the speed limit.
Towing will be easy
Finally, tow trucks will be able to allowed to freely pick up cars and take them to an impound location. This applies in cases where there is a parking violation, a vehicle is found to be abandoned or the owner cannot be found, a car is left in an unsafe location, or if the driver or owner refuses to move it.
Parking at a bus stop will land someone a €150 fine instead of currently €85, while overtaking a vehicle at a pedestrian crossing under any circumstances whatsoever will cost drivers €150 instead of €65 now.
Police said they have been mounting awareness campaigns for some time and have shown to the public that officers will be out there spotting traffic offenders and issuing fines, making arrests if necessary, in order to serve as a deterrent and reduce serious or fatal accidents.