The tearful Attard councillor echoed the feelings of many.
In a spontaneous outburst following the tragic traffic death of a teenager last weekend, he blamed Transport Malta for failing to deliver its promised studies and install speed cameras on the Central Link, despite the council’s long-voiced pleas.
The point was hammered home by Malta Insurance Association director general, Adrian Galea.
He wrote a few days later that “the progress we make [in terms of deterrence against abusive behaviour on the road] will continue to be too slow if the studies conducted by the local authorities and the decisions required, some of which are down to basic common sense, take forever to materialise”.
It was frustrating – harrowing for the victim’s family – to hear David Sutton, chief officer for transport strategy, say the road safety audit for the stretch where 17-year-old Kacey Sciberras died was in its “final stages”.
The transport watchdog already had evidence that motorists were driving at nearly 160km/h in this 60km/h zone. But did they do anything to slow these drivers down? Was this information shared with the police? Did the police jump into action with their hand-held speed cameras?
While it is all very well to plan remedial measures such as introducing narrower lanes and rumble strips, the latest road death is the strongest evidence yet that plans and studies urgently need to be translated into action on the ground.
The inertia by the authorities manifests itself in various forms. Every single day we continue seeing drivers committing the most dangerous manoeuvres on the streets, knowing they have a good chance of getting away with it. We have seen too many drivers marched to court for using their vehicle as a weapon and then being let out with a slap on the wrist.
Suffice to read the recent story on Times of Malta about the magistrate who handed down a three-year driving ban and a one-year jail sentence suspended for four years to a taxi driver who hit a pedestrian at 110km/h on a zebra crossing, causing her severe life-changing injuries.
Traffic fines, as the insurers note, have little deterrent value without proper enforcement. The insurance community also feels that “technology is probably the next best alternative to enforcement in person” and recommends, among other measures, the installation of average speed cameras rather than fixed-point ones.
However, policymakers seem to lack the will to order measures that would deter reckless driving. In January 2021, the National Audit Office (NAO) conducted a study to establish whether LESA has what it takes to fulfil its traffic enforcement function. While the agency was planning to acquire hand-held speed cameras, the NAO voiced concern that LESA never studied how many speed cameras were required and where they should be located. At the time, there were 21 fixed speed cameras. The number has grown to 22, according to information given in parliament.
This is not to say that mere installation of speed cameras will guarantee road safety. But it highlights the snail’s pace at which the authorities move to address this life-or-death matter. Being ‘wise’ after every road fatality is starting to grate.
While fines have rightly been raised and more road safety features may be needed, the most immediate way to make roads safer is to impose driver discipline through draconian enforcement of traffic rules.
For this to happen, there needs to be a far heavier presence of enforcers on the roads and a more widespread use of technology.
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