The next time you speed past a cyclist ahead of you, think also of his or her relatives and children, Shirley Micallef, whose husband was killed in a hit-and-run seven years ago, is urging.
“The consequences are there for a lifetime. They will never go away… Life remains at a standstill for some years and then you start picking up the pieces, patch up and do your utmost to carry on,” she told this newspaper in her latest effort to raise awareness about safety for all road users.
Cliff, her 45-year-old husband, died on July 30, 2009, after he was run over by a car in Baħar iċ-Ċagħaq, about 20 metres from the entrance to the White Rocks Complex. Anthony Taliana, then 21, had been charged with running him over while under the influence of alcohol and the case is still pending.
Mr Micallef was training for the LifeCycle Challenge and his death was followed by several calls for safety on the roads.
Ms Micallef found solace through her campaigning to make the roads safer, but she feels there has been little progress.
The consequences are there fora lifetime
According to national data, 467 people were injured in traffic accidents in the first three months of the year – nearly a third more than the same period last year.
In comments to The Sunday Times of Malta, orthopaedic surgeon John Casaletto said drivers involved in collisions should be automatically breathalysed and have their call logs checked to cut down on accidents caused by alcohol or mobile phone use.
Ms Micallef is calling for an awareness campaign, urging against bullying on the road.
Car drivers have to be especially careful: “Even if you’re driving properly and someone suddenly crosses the road and they are at fault, remember that you have a big weapon in your hand, and at the same time, you are shielded.”
She also insisted that an increase in the fines for drunk-driving and use of mobile phone should be followed with enforcement.
Ms Micallef does not want to convey a message of pity, but rather one of awareness.
“I was faced with this situation: one life was destroyed. I could either destroy another four, or do my best to put the four lives back on track as much as possible. I opted for the second one, but I didn’t do it on my own – I had the love and support of my family and friends,” she said seven years on.
The sudden death changed the family’s life completely.
“The funeral was a big wonderful colourful celebration. However, that was the beginning of it. You go home, and the house is like a ghost house. And then you start confronting issues – financial primarily, including expenses such as bills and the boys’ education.
“The children were aged 8, 11 and 15, so I had to switch from part -time to full- time, and all of a sudden they started seeing less of me.”
At one point she had four cases to follow in court – civil, criminal and two constitutional – and she had to relive the trauma over and over, including seeing the broken bicycle when presented as evidence.
It took Ms Micallef, who used to like cycling, six-and-a-half years to get back on a saddle, when she joined a guided group of cyclists in Italy.
The family’s bicycles are gathering dust in the garage, and her heart goes out for the victims and their relatives every time she sees a bike lying in the middle of the road.
The roads were built for everyone – pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers – and if we wanted to encourage more people to take up cycling, they have to be safer, she said.
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