NEWS

Traffic police implementing ‘zero tolerance’ for violations

Traffic police in Attica and on the national highways are to step up patrols and checks on drivers, while the Public Order Ministry has begun using helicopters to monitor traffic. In Attica, traffic police are now implementing a policy of zero tolerance of traffic violations. The latest statistics on dangerous violations in Attica in the first half of this year are an indication of the new approach. They show a reduction in the number of motorcycle drivers being caught without their helmets and of drunk drivers. Police attribute the reduction to a crackdown on these particular offenses in recent years. There has also been a stricter implementation of laws against dangerous violations, such as failure to give way, speeding, running stop signs or red lights, dangerous maneuvers, driving on the wrong side of the road and overtaking. Brigadier Panayiotis Adamidis, head of the Attica Traffic Police, declared his determination to bring order to the chaos of Athens’s streets. Apart from more frequent patrols, a number of new measures have been introduced to catch offenders. «We want the public to be in no doubt that violators will be punished. By doing that, we will all learn to respect the traffic code and abide by it,» said Adamidis. More patrol cars are on the road, monitoring teams have seen an increase in numbers, as have speed traps manned by plainclothes officers. All patrol cars have been issued with loudspeakers so officers can call out instructions to drivers and pedestrians. Traffic police officers have also been instructed to implement the law strictly and to make use of as many sanctions as possible. One example is the law on overloaded trucks, which police are required to immobilize. Until recently, this was not done. Instead, license plates were confiscated, a ticket was issued and the truck sent on its way. Now the truck will have to stay where it is until another vehicle can come and pick up the extra weight. «We have already seen a considerable reduction in the number of these violations,» said Adamidis, adding that in every case the sanction should be «harsh, implemented quickly and make violators aware that offenses will not go unpunished.» The new policy is aimed at applying the letter of the law in serious cases, such as the non-use of helmets or driving under the influence of alcohol. «It should not be taken for granted that we will deal with these on a case-by-case basis,» he said. «For example, there is a law against urinating in public. This was a form of behavior that one often came across so often that legislators felt the need to punish it. Nowadays, that law is virtually inactive, since we rarely see such behavior. That is what we want to happen with traffic violations.» The most common violations of the traffic code are speeding, drunkenness, the non-use of seat belts in cars and of helmets by motorcyclists. Another serious problem is that most people drive mechanically, without focusing on what they are doing. There is no official record of this type of behavior among Greek drivers, but Adamidis said that in the United States this type of driving is considered to be the primary cause of accidents. He suggests that the Health Ministry, perhaps with the help of psychologists, should look into this issue. Adamidis added that while the infrastructure is not perhaps the best possible, this is the environment we have and, therefore, we must learn to live with it. He believes that after the major roadworks in Attica, such as the Hymettus ring road and the Attiki Odos, are completed, conditions will improve. Infrastructure problems also make policing more difficult. «A lot of officers are deployed in directing traffic, something that should be a secondary activity,» he said, observing that the main work should be in policing the law, catching violations and stamping out bad driving habits.