A woman who survived a traffic accident which killed her partner four years ago believes drivers should be taught awareness of the real repercussions of accidents to try to deter negligent behaviour, such as speeding and drink driving.

Kasia Lyczkowska believes learners should be shown photos or videos of accidents, injuries and car wrecks, or requested to read or watch stories of traffic accident survivors.

This would “instil the awareness in learners that accidents can happen because of careless driving… to show the consequences of such behaviour,” says Lyczkowska.

Pierre Vella, executive chair of the Malta Road Safety Council, agrees.

“As a council… we feel that even during the actual theoretical part, possibly a video is shown to illustrate the dangers of being involved in an accident where there are injuries. It’s about having this mentality and consideration of being in a traffic accident, not just yourself, but even a third party. And as we read, it is even more frightful and tragic,” he said, when contacted.

Both Lyczkowska and Vella were sharing their views in the wake of the growing number of traffic fatalities.

This year, 18 people have died in traffic accidents, including nine pedestrians and six motorcyclists. The mid-year figure of 15 was the highest in a quarter of a century. In a study published in the Malta Medical Journal, the authors noted that Malta lacks a consistent and professional road safety campaign to address the increasing number of traffic fatalities.

The campaign, that should come with better enforcement, ought to target anyone who uses roads: motorists, motorcyclists, cyclists, pedestrians and scooter riders.

Lyczkowska’s suggestions take this a step further: education should go beyond being taught the rules of the road. Learners should be given a glimpse of the devastation caused by a traffic accident.

Learning from loss

She speaks from experience.

Lyczkowska, a Polish national, lived in Amsterdam for 13 years before moving to Malta, seven years ago, to enjoy life in the sun. While in Malta, she met Boris.

On June 24, 2018, Kasia and Boris went shopping to Bay Street ahead of the wedding of his cousin the following week.

After leaving St Julian’s on a motorbike, they headed to Boris’s office and had to drive towards the University of Malta. As they were in the tunnel near the skate park, their motorbike skidded.

“I remember hitting the wall on my right side. I don’t remember much. I didn’t lose consciousness, but I have gaps in my memory. I remember laying down on the ground in my helmet suffocating because I couldn’t breathe,” she recalled in an interview last year.

I remember hitting the wall on my right side

“The only concern I had was: what happened to Boris? But nobody wanted to tell me. They were just saying the ambulance was coming for us.”

Lyczkowska was taken to hospital and placed in an induced coma for two days. Half her body was shattered. She broke several ribs, her pelvis, left hip and the right leg was shattered to the extent that the knee had to be reconstructed. She woke up to the devastating news that Boris had died.

She spiralled into a dark space. When Lyczkowska was ready to face her feelings, she started writing down her

experiences. Sometime later, she set up a website ‘I survived. Now what?’ (www.isurvivedaccident.com) to share her story and encourage others to share theirs – in support of one another.

Enforcement, empathy and re-education

Now, as she sees the number of fatalities increase, she has some suggestions to share.

She believes that, apart from being taught about safe driving, learners ought to be made aware of what causes accidents – such as speeding, not respecting road rules and law, the potential cost of not maintaining a car that leaks oil.

“This can be one part of the final theoretical test… to expand an awareness of the consequences and generate drivers that are fit for purpose,” she said.

She also suggested creating a lab imitating a hospital setting where learners get to spend time bed ridden, recreating a post-accident scenario, or sitting in a wheelchair or in crutches – then asked to write about that experience.

“This would instil empathy in people that accidents can happen because of them or other drivers and can negatively impact and change the lives of anyone.”

She believes that such educational changes can be also rolled out to local councils and any authority responsible for roads management.

All this had to come with better enforcement and an education programme and re-education for current drivers.

Vella, from the Malta Road Safety Council, said that during the tuition period “we definitely should address the issue of safety. Driving schools tackle the issue of safe driving but we feel we should go beyond this issue.”

Last year, the council offered over 250 free first aid courses to new drivers to create more awareness on the dangers on the road.

“As a council, we feel that first aid courses should be compulsory… Another suggestion is that, on obtaining a driving licence, one is to donate blood…  the fact that you are already supporting what might happen will surely endorse the importance of being safe on our roads. Obtaining a driving licence is definitely obtaining one’s freedom but also one should obtain more responsibility,” he said.

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