Opinion: How to have safer roads
the Malta weather The February 9 editorial was an eye-opener for anyone who cares about road safety. The Malta Insurance Association (MIA) has been contributing to the debate on this issue for a long time, offering ideas and making suggestions while funding, directly or indirectly, certain initiatives.
This subject deserves much more attention than it attracts. Unfortunately, recent experience has shown that words and gestures matter more than actual action.
Regardless of our preferred mode of transport, all road users must take responsibility for maintaining road safety, as we share the same road network.
Justified criticisms multiply on the extension of this network at the expense of the little remaining countryside and on the inconvenience caused by road closures. The fact is, however, that until road users adopt alternative means of transport, it is the current road network that will allow us to get from A to B.
We must therefore focus on protecting the most vulnerable road users and ensuring that rules and regulations are respected and properly enforced.
The British authorities have just taken the bold decision to update their rules of the road. A major innovation is the creation of a hierarchy of road users, which places the most vulnerable at the top. This is partly a recognition of how transportation has evolved over the past few years.
As expected, pedestrians take first place and cyclists follow in second place.
Some of these changes have drawn strong criticism. They were described as having been poorly thought out and likely to create more confusion than clarity.
While insurers are primarily concerned with resolving fault in road accidents and paying fair compensation – which they are sometimes criticized for – they consider road safety to be an important component of this process.
They see the need for real discipline among all road users when obeying the rules of the road, whether they are pedestrians, cyclists, electric scooter and motorcycle riders or motorists.
Motorists are not allowed to operate a vehicle unless they have a valid and valid driver’s license, which they obtained after passing the driving test – which is not a task easy.
There is no doubt that during the test, the skills of new pilots are at their best. During the day, it does not occur to them to drink alcohol, to go too fast, to use their
mobile phone, going through red lights or violating other traffic rules. Yet many of us see these violations happen every day on the road.
The introduction of a “demerit” point system a few years ago gave insurers hope that the situation would improve considerably, but unless law enforcement is enforced and it is visibly enforced, many drivers are still willing to take the risk. MIA strongly believes that road safety can only be addressed seriously if a dedicated authority oversees policy implementation.
Road safety can no longer be tackled piecemeal, without good coordination between all the authorities concerned.
Road safety can only be seriously addressed if a dedicated authority oversees policy implementation– Adrien Galea
Sending video messages calling for respect for the highway code and motorists not to take risks during the end-of-year celebrations, displaying billboards at will, it is far from enough. If we really intend to take road safety seriously for the benefit of all road users, not just vulnerable road users, then the issue must be on the nation’s radar screen 24/7. /7.
What the MIA recommends is to follow the Irish model, where a road safety authority is responsible for the whole process. This includes new driver tuition fees, driving tests, issuance and renewal of driver’s licenses, enforcement of regulations, demerit point system and all other penalties such as fines, suspension permit and rehabilitation.
What are the advantages of this approach?
First, it would reduce fragmentation. A single authority focusing on road safety would help bring everything together under one roof, providing an easy point of reference and easier access to information for road users.
How often do we find ourselves in a situation where information is available but finding it is difficult?
Having a single authority would undoubtedly help to facilitate access to information for road users.
Second, road safety weaknesses would be addressed more proactively. They would be studied, modern technologies introduced, inspections and audits carried out and rules enforced by the enforcement officers themselves.
Third, such an authority would be autonomous and independent, able to stand on its own feet, with its own resources and budgets and clear reporting lines. Moreover, rather than its raison d’être being limited to an advisory role, it would be on an equal footing with other road safety authorities.
A fourth benefit would be education campaigns, where a road safety authority would undoubtedly leave its mark. Education would focus on schools and road safety could be part of the school curriculum.
Ongoing campaigns – which could be thematic or generic in nature – would reinforce the message across the various social media platforms, reaching all corners of society.
Finally, statistics and data compilation. As an EU Member State, Malta must regularly compile and communicate its statistics.
Although Malta’s reporting has improved considerably over the years, we still lag behind other countries and do not yet meet all the requirements. While most of the necessary information is collected, its source is too fragmented to make much sense of it.
Having an information center will not only meet EU reporting requirements, but also greatly assist in their interpretation, so that road users and insurers can take effective and targeted, for example by identifying and tackling accident black spots.
Investing in better resources aimed at educating the public and enforcing the law is not a waste of time or money.
Investing in a road safety authority that can bring about real change now will not only benefit future generations, but will also send a strong message that this country is serious about road safety.
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