Unruly drivers face crackdown

Tougher penalties for drivers caught breaching traffic regulations will come into effect tomorrow with fines increasing by as much as 400 percent. According to the new rules, drivers caught running a red light will be fined 700 euros, versus the current -167 penalty. Those found not wearing a seat belt will be hit with a -350 penalty – the current fine stands at 83 euros. The Transport Ministry has said it is targeting driving offenses considered to be more dangerous, while the penalty hike for other offenses, such as illegal parking, will not be as steep. The tougher regulations have provoked mixed reactions from professional road users, but many agree that it is simply a revenue-raising measure by the government. Giorgos Lekkas, president of the Association of Professional Driving Instructors, told Kathimerini that steep fines gave drivers an incentive to try and bribe police in order to get off the hook. «It would be a more effective measure if the offender had to do community service,» he said. The new regulations will also toughen the penalty points system, the implementation of which has so far proved ineffective. The lack of an appropriate computer system and poor communication between government departments has meant that some 2.5 million drivers who should have lost their licenses over the last four years did not. The system is now expected to be overhauled and any points collected by drivers in the previous two years will go onto their record. Under the new traffic code, offenses that could cause an accident, such as not stopping at a red light, will get nine points rather than the current seven points. Yiannis Handanos, president of the Hellenic Institute of Transportation Engineers, said that the biggest problem with the new rules was the difficulty in enforcing them properly. «We must secure systematic policing and monitoring of those who violate rules in relation to speed, alcohol, seat belts and helmets. International experience has shown that a reduction in these infringements leads to a drop in the number of road accident victims,» he added.

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