Zak Micallef is a 19-year-old man from Swieqi, who is looking to revolutionise the way we sentence those who break the law. Seven years ago, while training for the LifeCycle charity, Zak's father was killed in a traffic accident close to their home. Building on the lessons he learnt from his dad, Zak spoke to Lovin Malta about the legislative changes he hopes to see in the near future.
My father and I always had a special bond - our interests were so similar it was fascinating to watch. At the time I was too young to even notice these similarities. My mum remembers everything though, always says we think exactly alike. Everything I enjoy doing to this day, is stuff we began together.
"After the tragedy, it was very difficult for me to continue cycling. It became a constant reminder of how my life has changed."
My father always encouraged me to focus on my creativity. We used to sit down together, and he'd turn to me and ask "what do you want to build?". As a child I was always fascinated by electricity; so the day we made our first electric circuit was one of my happiest. We did this often, and over time I learnt to implement a creative spark into every aspect of my life.
He also taught me to love sports. We spent so much of our time cycling together. The memory of the day he taught me to ride a bike is as fresh as ever. I kept falling and he kept picking me up. Eventually, combing the love for creativity and cycling, my dad and I built a custom bike together. I instantly fell in love with it; this small Paco race frame, which we transformed to fit me perfectly. Everything was set for me to race just like dad did. Sadly this day never arrived.
"My suggestion is simple: anyone who has a fine to pay should pay for this in lesson-time."
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After the tragedy, it was very difficult for me to continue cycling. It became a constant reminder of how my life has changed, and made me realise just how dangerous Malta's roads can be. But I couldn't give it up because whenever I was out there I always felt his presence. But the more I cycled the clearer it became: it's time for things to change.
Today, our only response to dangerous driving seems to be slapping people with a fine. More accidents? Higher fines.
But the current fining system has some major flaws, not least because the driver who is being penalised isn't really made aware of what they're doing wrong. Knowing where you went wrong, and the serious consequences that could have arisen from your mistakes, could encourage you to actually change your behaviour before it's too late.
My suggestion is simple: anyone who has a fine to pay should pay for it in lesson time.
During these lessons the offender will be helped to understand the actual danger they posed, and the damage they could have done. This will instil a much greater sense of responsibility rather than simply asking someone to pay a relatively small sum of money for speeding, texting while driving, or ignoring the cyclist to the side of the road.
And let's be honest, who doesn't need a refresher course on road safety every few years anyway? How much of your driving lessons do you remember from your teenage years? Shouldn't lifelong learning be applied to something as serious as the safety of ourselves and the people around us?
In time, having more responsible drivers on the road will lead to a growing community of cyclists on our streets. This will, in turn, lead to the easing of one of Malta's biggest infrastructural issues - traffic. Having more responsible drivers on our streets goes beyond road safety, even though that is a huge factor, for my family and unfortunately many others like mine. The ripple effect caused by revolutionising the way we punish certain infractions could bring about waves of change.
An idea can only catch fire with a good spark of change.