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18-02-2021 17:35

Address by the Minister of Transport, Communications and Works during the online event entitled “Addressing road safety during the pandemic”

As the Minister responsible for Road Safety and Chairman of the Road Safety Council, I would like to thank the Embassy of Australia, Monash University, the European University of Cyprus, the World Health Organization and all stakeholders for their contribution to this online event.

The pandemic we all experience has changed our daily lives, the way we work and socialize. At the same time, fewer people are commuting and using public transport. Although from March to May 2020, during the lockdown, traffic was dramatically reduced, the effect on annual road deaths in our country was only marginal. During 2020, 48 road deaths were recorded, while in 2019 and 2018, 52 and 49 were recorded respectively.

During the implementation of Covid-19 lockdown in March to May 2020, traffic volumes were significantly reduced by 62% to 70% in urban areas, whereas in motorways reductions of up to 80% were observed. In that period a reduction in road deaths by only 25% was recorded. One is led to deduce that road users in Cyprus believe that the roads are safer under these conditions and are taking extra risks, often exceeding the speed limit at dangerous levels or engaging in careless driving practices which are primary causes of road accidents in our country.

With fewer cars on the road, the number of vulnerable road users has increased significantly. While some drivers have become more aware and careful of pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists, others are distracted or drive at increased speed and do not focus on these road users who are out in greater than normal numbers. Not surprisingly more than half of the road deaths in 2020 were vulnerable road users.

It is widely recognized that the road safety problem is a complex one, involving many stakeholders from different disciplines. The Road Safety Council has been set up to bring together all relevant authorities to act in a coherent way to its resolution. The Council has recently published the Road Safety Strategic Plan for the period 2021-2030, which is based on the Safe System Approach and entails specific targets together with 128 concrete actions and timetables to achieve them. The general goal is to reduce road deaths and injuries by 50% by 2030, compared to the numbers recorded in 2020, in line with the European Union target.

It is an indisputable fact that in all road collisions human error and recklessness are a determining factor. For this reason, actions aimed at improving the behavior of all road users form the spearhead of our strategy to address this serious problem.

In order to achieve our goals, a change of culture and road behavior is necessary and this requires methodical work, on an ongoing basis, at all levels, family, school and society at large. We trust that the recent establishment of the concept of Road Safety Ambassadors, an action of this Strategic Plan, will enhance our efforts in raising awareness on road safety issues.

While raising awareness is a key issue, our strategy would be incomplete without the inclusion of policies and actions covering all aspects that underpin road safety: infrastructure, vehicles, people and speed. That is why the Road Safety Strategic Plan for the period 2021-2030 focuses on these through a detailed description of actions and key indicators for the assessment of progress in each area.

Today’s event is a follow up of the Cyprus Road Safety Forum of October 2019. I am pleased to note that we established an effective, wider, partnership with the academic community, especially Monash University's Global Accident Research Center and look forward in developing practical solutions that will lead us to "Vision Zero", as we all agree that no death on the road is acceptable!