Police brush up on traffic laws

As the government prepares to introduce stricter fines for disobedient drivers, the Public Order Ministry said yesterday that police will be called in to the classroom to be clued in on the new penalties. Traffic police will be required to take part in seminars on upcoming changes in the law as regards infringements by cars and trucks. The Transport Ministry is expected to legislate stiffer fines later in the year in a series of changes that will increase fines by as much as 400 percent. Drivers caught not wearing a seat belt will be hit with a 350-euro penalty and may lose their license for 10 days, versus the current 83-euro fine. Drivers who run a red light will fined 700 euros, up from 167 euros currently. News of the stricter rules has prompted a mixed reaction, with opposition parties accusing the government of using traffic breaches as a means of filling budgetary holes. The police employees’ union has also opposed the changes as they dread having to impose the hike on drivers. Until police are fully informed of the new law, officers will be supplied with pocket-sized cards that list the new penalties. The Public Order Ministry also announced yesterday the stricter policing of bus lanes as a means of helping public transport increase speed. «It (the Transport Ministry) has promised that by the end of the year it will provide to traffic police 15 more cranes,» the ministry said, referring to the vehicles used to tow away cars parked in bus lanes. Stricter policing will also help make public transport more attractive to residents as Athens’s traffic woes get worse under the pressure of more cars entering the transport network. According to Eurostat, the EU’s statistics service, the number of cars traveling on Greek roads jumped 105 percent between 1990 and 2004. The average increase in cars across the EU for the 14 year period was 38 percent. In 1990, there were 170 cars for every 1,000 Greeks, while in 2004 the respective figure increased to 348.