Poor infrastructure, drivers using their mobile phones, drink and drug driving, speeding, and even the driving tests racket are being blamed for pedestrian injuries in traffic crashes.

Activists and doctors have called for concerted efforts to improve safety as more pedestrians fall victim to poor driving and infrastructure. Three pedestrians have died and dozens of others injured in separate traffic accidents this year, with five pedestrians injured on the same day a few days ago. 

Statistics provided by the police show that 204 pedestrians had been injured in traffic accidents by the end of September. A total of 121 suffered slight injuries, and 80 had grievous injuries.   

Last year saw 26 road deaths in Malta, the deadliest on record. More than half were pedestrians.  

Mobile phones and jaywalking

Emergency doctor Jonathan Joslin thinks the use of mobile phones while driving or crossing the road is one of the main causes of pedestrian injuries.  

He called for a “clampdown” on mobile phone use with stricter enforcement and even higher fines.  

While drivers are often blamed, pedestrians need to play their part in protecting themselves, he said.  

“We have a habit of walking with attention to our phones, even when crossing the road,” he said.

Jaywalking can also cause accidents while pedestrians should use zebra crossings whenever possible.  

Authorities should also test people for drink and drug driving more often, and the law should be amended to allow random testing and do away with the need for reasonable suspicion before testing.

Speed on roads should also be cut down, said Joslin, who has repeatedly been called out to assist injured drivers, passengers, and pedestrians.  

“The higher the speed, the heavier the impact, it’s that simple.”

“Pedestrians, cyclists, scooter users are given the least priority”  

No pavements or crossings

Rota president Mark Trapani said Malta’s car-centric road design has meant that pavements are often too narrow and crossings are few and far between.  

“If you’re walking on the pavement, you often have to go on the road if someone is walking in the opposite direction. Is this fair?” he asked. 

Construction sites make the problem worse, often occupying the entire pavement and making it even more dangerous for pedestrians. 

The authorities widened roads and removed traffic and pelican lights, building pedestrian bridges instead, the cycling NGO president said.  

“We don’t see crossings in every block as you see in other European countries,” he said.  

And many of the existing zebra crossings do not have functioning lights, meaning pedestrians are less visible to drivers, he added. 

Trapani said the government also needs to introduce a cycling policy to set guidelines on building alternative mobility infrastructure like bicycle lanes.  

“Pedestrians, cyclists, scooter users are given the least priority.”  

Bad drivers

The driving tests racket that was exposed by Times of Malta earlier this month is another “huge issue,” Trapani said.  

“We are putting people, who do not have the know-how, behind a speeding vehicle in a road being shared by a lot of different types of road users,” he said. 

“Why haven’t these licences been revoked yet,” he asked.  

NGO Doctors for Road Safety has said it is extremely concerned with the high number of pedestrian victims in 2022.  

“We have been promised action in the form of an updated road safety strategy as well as the establishment of a transport safety investigations commission. It is high time that words are put into concrete action,” the NGO said.  

The government had pledged a commission that will investigate air, sea and road accidents from a “scientific” perspective with the aim of the changes coming into force by the end of December 2023.

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