By Ismail Veli…….
Like most people who hear and read of the tragic deaths due to road accidents and car crashes in North Cyprus, it fills me with sadness and sometimes anger. Reading the recent article by Chris Elliott and the interview with ex UK policeman John Snowby click here, I was impressed with his experience and advice to this never ending problem which seems to claim lives on a regular basis. Not being an expert on this subject in any shape or form I nevertheless felt it useful to add another voice based on my own experience of driving in North Cyprus.
Other than the UK, Cyprus is the only place where I have ever driven. Strangely I feel safe driving there not because of the great road system or the careless driving habits of the locals, but simply because, using my experience of congested and crowded roads in the UK, I find Cyprus relatively empty traffic-wise.
Ultimately a bit of caution and common sense backed by years of experience has taught me to drive carefully and in particular be on the alert for suicidal drivers who seem to have little regard for safety. The first principle I apply is, if some crazy driver comes too close behind me, I simply slow up further until they realise I will not be intimidated and they simply pass me by, often giving me dirty looks. Some junctions are so awkward that any driver simply needs to use extreme care when crossing over.
In a tiny country of only 300.000 people, how the government can tolerate a death toll of 722 deaths since 2001 and a staggering 12.658 injuries between 2001 and 2015 is beyond comprehension.
This statistic is from The Head of TKOD the Turkish Cypriot Prevention of Road Traffic Accidents Association, Dr Mehmet Avci, and is the worst in the whole of Europe. As much as 41.554 accidents were recorded in 2015. this is about one in seven of the total population.
MOT tests which are not properly supervised only take place every 3 years. This is a sad indictment of a system that does little to punish careless drivers. Sadly I noticed that many drivers actually flash opposing drivers to warn them that a police car or camera is in the area. I find this extraordinary, it simply supports carelessness and speeding while condoning injuries inflicted by such drivers. Not that the local population would admit to such an accusation.
Strangely many people often and rightly do complain about the lack of a serious government strategy to reduce such accidents, but rarely do they themselves adhere to the principles of caution they argue about. The national habit ingrained in our psychic makeup seems to be ”It’s someone else’s fault, and nothing to do with me”.
As Cypriots, with much justification we raise hell about our war dead between 1963-74, but seem to ignore the fact that the public together with the government is equally responsible for the immense negligence that has caused so much grief and possibly more deaths due to road accidents since 1974.
Surely a serious implementation of heavy fines, confiscation of licences and possible imprisonment for careless driving leading to deaths should be sufficient to raise much more awareness on the consequences of negligence.
I have known relatives who actually allow their 13-14 year old sons to drive their cars. The excuse is ”they have to learn sometime”. In one instance (about 10 years ago) it caused such a bad accident that it was a miracle the young boy escaped with his life. No amount of excuses can be given for such stupidity. Had this occurred in the UK the father would and should have gone to prison. Sadly in Cyprus they seem to simply get a warning.
THAT I’M AFRAID IS SIMPLY NOT GOOD ENOUGH!
Driving laws, government enforcement, ethics and a mindset of careless driving needs to change. Each and every person needs to ask themselves the question ”what if it was my child killed on the roads?”