Road safety

Doing nothing about road safety will cost us dearly – Adrian Galea

As the association representing local insurers and as an active participant in the Malta Road Safety Council, the Malta Insurance Association (MIA) is increasingly concerned about media reports on road safety and the apparent lack of commitment from the authorities.

Road safety is not a cliche that one pays attention to momentarily and only when it suits policy makers, such as the annual campaigns launched just before the holiday season. It is worrying to note, for example, the total absence of reference to this issue in the political manifestos of the two main parties during the last elections.

The MIA regularly engages in discussions with the authorities with the aim of seeing effective changes take place. Our members believe it is their duty to contribute to a real improvement in road safety, and even if some cynics will say that it is because insurers will benefit financially from having fewer claims, it is worth remembering that ‘at a time when inflation has impacted virtually every economic sector, it is in everyone’s interest that the financial cost of road accidents be reduced.

Proof of this commitment, the MIA had strongly advocated for the introduction of a demerit point system at the local level, for a reduction in the alcohol level and, on a practical level, had donated 15 breathalyzer to the police so that they use them (and the only ones available to the police to date) in the prevention of drunk driving.

The latest national statistics reported on the number of breathalyzers carried out date back to 2018, when in that year 165 tests were carried out. Considering that 15 kits have been donated, 165 tests in one year equates to an average of 11 tests per kit, per year, or less than one test per month. Readers can draw their own conclusion as to whether this is enough or not.

More worrying is the fact that driving under the influence of drugs is against the law, just as much as drunk driving. The difference is that the law, unlike alcohol, does not specify any limits on drug use, contains no proper definition of “drugs”, and contains no provision for determining how and what tests should be carried out to determine consumption. of drugs by the driver. . It is perhaps no wonder that the police are not at all equipped to carry out roadside drug tests and have to wonder where such tests can practically be carried out.

Unlike alcohol, the law does not specify limits on drug use– Adrien Galea

Madam Justice Consuelo Scerri Herrera criticized this issue in her address to the MIA Conference on Drunk Driving and Drugs in April 2019. Here is what she said, as reported in the media: “The number of accidents on Malta’s roads should warrant more breathalyzer tests. Three years later and unfortunately nothing has changed!

The objective behind this conference was to take a snapshot of the situation in Malta at the time, and for us to engage with the relevant authorities so that we could propose and discuss the necessary changes. Unfortunately, our proposals to change the law never received the attention they deserved and, at one very disappointing moment, doubts were even cast as to the true intentions behind our proposals.

With laws in urgent need of updating and no real commitment to proper enforcement to bring about a real change in the driver’s attitude towards road safety, there cannot be much confidence in an improvement and a reduction in the number of deaths and injuries. The accident data for the first few months of this year is proof of that, if need be.

If this level of indifference to needed change remains, we can’t complain when insurance costs and premiums start to rise; it will be an inevitable consequence of failure to take the required action.

Everyone stands to gain from better road safety and better law enforcement, including the families of those who have lost loved ones and are going through so much grief and trauma. Our emergency and health services would be able to allocate their already stretched resources more efficiently; fewer beds will need to be occupied in the hospital; fewer productive days are lost for those involved in such incidents; and the fluidity of traffic would surely benefit from avoiding the traffic jams that inevitably result.

This is why the MIA believes that the country would be much better served by having a single authority or agency entirely dedicated to road safety, rather than living with the current fragmentation of responsibilities between several entities which only creates confusion, lack of accountability and, ultimately, lack of enforcement. This is what other EU countries have done, with great success.

The authorities must understand and accept that there are people and organizations like ours who are very willing to help solve this problem and offer ideas on the changes needed. It is high time for the government and all authorities to start listening, and above all, to act.

Adrian Galea is Managing Director of the Malta Insurance Association.

Independent journalism costs money. Support Times of Malta for the price of a coffee.

Support us