Relatives of traffic accident victims say they are very disappointed that the promised road accident investigation bureau has not yet been set up six months after the originally proposed deadline.

Fiona Laferla, who lost her 21-year-old son Ben in a traffic accident in September 2022, spoke about “apathy and bad priorities” when referring to the delayed set-up of the investigation board.

The father of another young man, who died in an accident but did not wish to be named, said: “It’s very disappointing to see this accident investigation bureau has not yet been set up. In the meantime, who’s taking responsibility for fatal traffic accidents which could have been prevented from lessons learnt from the prior accidents? Unfortunately, we’re living in a country where no one is accountable.”

Similar feelings were echoed by Vincenzo Garofalo, who lost his right leg in a motorcycle accident when he was thrown from his bike and run over by a car in December 2021.

He said the situation was “very, very sad”, adding he was still waiting for justice.

Aldo Lombardi lost his “wife and best friend” Marie Claire in October 2022. She died when she lost control of her motorbike and fell after her motorcycle skidded on spilt olives.

Lombardi suggested a motorbike rider on board that bureau if it ever comes to existence. In a previous interview, he had said: “Had I not published the photos [of spilt olives on the road], there would have been a big question mark and the public would not know what happened and why in my wife’s case.”

We’re living in a country where no one is accountable

The bureau to investigate road accidents was meant to start operating last December but the government said details were still being ironed out.

The road safety bureau is not intended to apportion blame but will help identify any shortcomings, issues and patterns to amend road safety policy.

Asked for an update, the ministry said the Transport Safety Investigation Commission remains “a key project” but that the “legal considerations” are still being discussed by the government, the state advocate, the attorney general and police.

“The ministry remains committed to resolve these pending matters to establish the TSIC, in the proper manner, thereby consolidating maritime and aviation safety investigations, as regulated by EU and international standards, and introduce the concept of safety investigations into road accidents,” it said.

Urgent need to learn from accidents

The urgent need for the bureau was raised again after 31-year-old Italian Oriana Bertolino plunged to her death in a horrific quad bike accident at Wied Il-Mielaħ, in Gozo last weekend. The police said the quad bike was being driven by a 47-year-old Italian man, who managed to leap to safety when it went out of control.

When issues about quad bike accidents were raised, Doctors for Road Safety said it was difficult to comment without any detailed information as magisterial inquiries are confidential.

They said the bureau is “essential” to shed light on such tragedies and inform the public about what can be learned from them.

Fiona Laferla agrees: “Let’s face it... if set up honestly and correctly, how often will the government be found responsible for lack of road safety? Is that really what anyone in power wants? Having just the magistrate and then put the blame on the driver or victim or both, is so much easier.”

Road accident investigations are limited to magisterial inquiries, which are kept secret and merely seek to assign criminal responsibility.

Laferla’s son was sitting at the back of a rented car when he died.

“I am no expert. I am a grieving parent of a 21-year-old who died in a car accident that still makes no sense to me and many others. He should have walked away from it like the driver and front passenger did… Trying to understand is not getting me anything or anywhere except for endless sleepless nights and physical pain.

“Yes, there are experts appointed by the court and who am I to question them? But are there enough? Why do we have to have experts that have so many other important roles? With all these car accidents, I am sure they need more than one full-time, solely on accidents.”

She says education alone will not be enough.

“We need fresh eyes in the form of road safety, car safety and safe drivers with real deterrents from the courts,” she said.

The road safety bureau was one of several measures announced in 2022 as Malta saw a record number of 26 deaths on the roads.

Plans to set up the Transport Safety Investigation Commission were among the government’s planned measures to make Maltese roads safer. These also included an increase in fines and penalty points for dangerous driving – that were increased in May last year.

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