March 2nd, 2007
‘The road directions and all other signs in Cyprus are in English and Greek language like all other signage. The driving area is on the left of the road.‘
I’ve done a fair bit of driving in other European countries, and I have to say that the first thing that struck me about driving in Cyprus was how strange it felt to be driving on the left! Even though I’ve spent most of my life driving on the left in the UK, when you go abroad your brain automatically wants to drive on the right! It felt really weird.
‘Driving standards in Cyprus are poor. You should drive with care and caution.‘
…and if you do, you’re likely to be the only one! I’ve only done a little bit of driving in Cyprus, but I soon learnt that the above statement is 100% correct. There are some real lunatics on the roads here.
‘In recent years, Cyprus has ranked among the top three European countries (per capita) for traffic fatalities. Common causes of traffic accidents include speeding, tailgating, overtaking and a disregard for traffic lights.‘
There are three things which that statement doesn’t mention. One is driving whilst under the influence of alcohol. It’s illegal of course – the limits are about the same as the UK – but there’s no real deterrent. A fine and 3 to 6 points on your licence is all offenders are going to get! They won’t get banned from driving. And I rather get the impression that the Police are more interested in catching people not wearing seat-belts than they are in catching drunk drivers.
‘Front seat belts for driver and passenger are compulsory. Occupants in rear seats should also be belted.‘
…but presumably you’ll have to take your eyes off the road and your hands off the wheel in order to belt them one!
There was actually quite a campaign to curb drink/driving over the Christmas/New Year period, and I know there are plans afoot to tighten up the law because of all the fatalities.
As Dean Martin once said – “If you drink, don’t drive. Don’t even putt.“
The second thing which that statement doesn’t mention is driving whilst under the influence of drugs. Although to be fair, it’s probably not a major contributor to the accident statistics because Cyprus has a zero tolerance policy towards drugs, and the penalties are so severe that I guess Cyprus probably doesn’t have much of a drugs problem.
If you get caught merely smoking a joint, you can expect to be locked up for at least six months. Get caught in possession of just a small amount of illegal substances for personal use, and you can expect to be put away for many years. The maximum sentence for drug offences is life imprisonment.
That’s why it’s not much of a problem here!
The third thing which I feel needs a mention is the use of mobile phones whilst driving.
‘Drivers must always be hands free while driving. The use of mobile phone or coffee mug is strictly restricted for the driver while on road in Cyprus.‘
No idea why they singled out the poor old coffee mug for discrimination! Maybe the caffeine content here is extraordinarily high! Or maybe they mean you’re not allowed to use a mobile coffee mug to make phone calls whilst driving! It’s a little ambiguous!
I saw a woman driving in the town centre yesterday, who had clearly found a loophole in the law. Well, strictly speaking I suppose she was actually abiding by the mobile phone law in that she was using a hands-free kit with ear-pieces. But she was quite obviously having a very animated conversation, and all the hands-free kit did was allow her to gesticulate wildly with both hands! I’m assuming there must be a law somewhere that states you must have both hands on the steering wheel…!
My final quote from the Guide To Driving In Cyprus is…
‘All roads are tool free, which makes driving in Cyprus a hassle free experience‘
I have to agree. Nothing worse than loads of tools cluttering up the highway! Well done to Cyprus for being the first country to identify what is an ever-growing global problem, and having the courage to do something about it!
It should be noted that all roads in Cyprus are also toll-free!