I pondered for a week or so about whether to discuss this subject in my Blog, as it is a more serious subject than I usually tackle, however it just keeps raising its ugly head at the moment, wherever I look, on face book, in the news, and as I drive down the roads. Make no mistake, I love driving in Cyprus, the roads are so much quieter than the UK, gridlock only happens on festival days, and the only rush hour traffic I have ever seen is on the way into the capital Nicosia – but it is NOTHING compared to the insanely busy roads of Manchester or London. I also don’t mean to be a Cypriot basher – I LOVE my adopted country, but some things here need to change, and fast.
So here goes with my facts and opinions about driving in Cyprus, feel free to comment with your own experiences of driving here:-
Number 1 – When a Cypriot gets behind the wheel, many of them become lunatics, aggressive, rude, speeding, rarely using their indicators if at all. Tailgating, undertaking and rude gestures are commonplace, most will never let another car out at a junction, you just have to be brave and go for it, and if you let them out you will be lucky to get a wave of recognition. A usually placid, friendly nation of people turn into fiends behind the wheel of a car.
Number 2 – In spite of Number 1, if you are a woman, child or elderly person trying to cross the road, most Cypriot drivers, in my experience will just stop to let you cross, even on a dual carriageway, a lovely gesture but confusing to the person driving behind you especially when you don’t indicate. However beware red lights at pedestrian crossings, many see these as fair game unless there is actually someone on the crossing as they approach.
Number 3 – Many Cypriots drive without seat belts – as do a lot of other nationalities in Cyprus, because the locals do it!! As my mum would say – if your friend jumped off a bridge would you do it too?! Nothing scares me more than seeing young children stood up in moving vehicles without their seat belts on – a very common site at school pick up time.
Number 4 – It is a standing joke that Cypriots can drive and multitask, frappe in one hand, cigarette in the other, and phone balanced underneath their chin – but it’s no joke when that leads to loss of control of the car, and injuries to innocent people as a result.
Number 5 – Drink driving is commonplace in Cyprus – in this day and age it staggers me how many seemingly sensible people think it is acceptable to drink several beers or glasses of wine, then get behind the wheel of a vehicle to drive it home. Frightening. Again though this is a Cyprus NOT a Cypriot problem, I know a lot of ex-pat Brits who might never do this in the UK, but think it is okay to do it here in Cyprus, along with other nationalities who are lucky enough to call Cyprus their home.
Number 6 – CYPRUS HAS ONE OF THE WORST ROAD TRAFFIC ACCIDENT RATES IN THE EU
In 2016 the Republic of Cyprus recorded an increase of 27% in the number of FATAL road accidents with 57 deaths in 2015. This figure did drop significantly in 2016 to 46 deaths (a 20% decrease), however it is still one of the highest per capital in the EU. For a small island, I seem to witness many more accidents than I ever saw in the UK, and have read about several deaths on the roads already this year.
The weekend before last saw reports of 3 fatalities including 2 in one night, which was the reason this Blog post was written. The first was the tragic death of a 17 year old who lost control of his motorbike and died in hospital. In the second, a 28 year old was thrown from his car after losing control, the accident investigating office of the Limassol Traffic Department Emilios Kafas, said that “The car was speeding lightly but unfortunately the driver was not wearing his seatbelt and as a result he was thrown out of his vehicle at impact …I can say with certainty that if the driver was wearing his seat belt, he would be here with us”. The third accident was a 79 year old British man who lost control of his car, crashed into a wall, and died in the resulting fire. What a tragic loss of life including 2 young men with their whole lives ahead of them. All of this over just one weekend – you can only imagine the rest.
This country needs to take swift action to prevent another generation of careless drivers emerging. It needs better education about the dangers of drink driving, and driving without seat belts, or whilst on the phone. It needs harsher penalties for those caught doing so, and it needs to happen quickly before many more senseless but avoidable accidents take place. I see police all the time out with their speed cameras, and it is often commented on that this is just a money raising exercise, but I hear of few people being stopped for not wearing a helmet on their moped, or for being on the phone. Why not use that money for driver awareness courses, for TV ads showing graphic images of car accident victims, for Social Media campaigns, for more police to monitor drink drivers. There is so much more that can be done, to lower the unacceptable numbers of car accidents, and road fatalities in this country.
Last Summer I witnessed a driver begin to lose control after speeding round a bend, he came towards us at speed on the wrong side of the road, there was just Niffa and I in the car, and I could only pray that he did not hit us head on. This driver just managed to wrestle the car back to the correct side of the road before he either hit us, or Niffa off-roaded our car in order to avoid him. Now every time Niffa goes out in the car, my last words are always, “drive safely, I love you”, because I fear for his, and all our safety on the roads of Cyprus.
Whatever you are doing this weekend, stay safe, and please drive carefully.
Love from Nelly x