The government, in particular Malta Transport and the Health Department, seems to have an inordinately low appreciation of safety issues. In addition to tragedies at a motor show, an illegal zoo and a Paceville establishment, we have just had gruesome news of judiciary bias and police bungling resulting in the acquittal of a driver in the case of a cyclist who was seriously injured.
What is worrying about this case (‘Malta is always on drivers’ side, insists injured cyclist’, The Sunday Times of Malta, November 29), is the similarity to many other cases where the driver got off free.
For instance, in the case of (‘Driver cleared of injuring young fast bicycle rider’, December 12, 2008) an unlicensed driver driving a car with defective brakes hit a cyclist. The driver left a 42-metre skid mark but was not charged for injuring a cyclist.
In another case (‘Young cyclist told motorist who hit him: don’t worry, it’s not your fault’, May 7, 2013) a shocked youngster told the motorist who hit him: don’t worry, it’s not your fault.
The boy’s version was that, at the crossroads, he first looked to the right and then to the left and, seeing no cars coming, he proceeded and was hit by a car. The road on which this accident occurred was not an arterial road but a residential road where everybody is entitled to cycle and play. In other words, this boy saw no car and therefore crossed or entered the road as anyone else would do.
Another such case was that of a young cyclist who was hit by a car and was left lying on the road with fractured legs (‘Motorist fined €200 after hitting cyclist, breaking his legs’, May 13, 2013). The driver was fined €200 and his driving licence suspended for a laughable two weeks.
How ridiculous can our courts get? This penalty was derisory and an insult to the victim, especially considering this was a hit-and-run case.
Apart from a dangerous bias in favour of motorists, our magistrates are especially unable to grasp that the (excessive) speed of an oncoming car is easily misjudged by pedestrians and cyclists when entering or crossing a road. They are also unaware of how close some cars drive past cyclists. Our police and judiciary don’t seem to have any concept of the hostile road conditions faced by vulnerable road users.
As things now stand, Transport Malta seems scared of decisions to introduce changes to make our roads safer. Unlike other countries, we have no presumed liability law to protect vulnerable pedestrians and cyclists.
Our administrations do not have the political will – or courage – to lower the urban speed limit to 30km/h – or the alcohol driving limit to 50mg/dl – as has been done in other countries. At the same time the police and judiciary continue to treat motorists with kid gloves and give them the benefit of doubt or impose ridiculous penalties.
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