Deaths and serious injuries on Malta’s roads are nothing new but now many are growing exasperated in finding solutions. Some are calling for an increase in speed cameras on our roads, but the question is: are they really enough?
Fixed speed cameras are a cost-effective measure that do reduce the number of grievous injuries and fatalities in high-risk locations.
The coast road, for example, was Malta’s most dangerous road before it erected speed cameras on one side of the road in May 2021. It would see multiple deaths every year as motorists continued to use the road as a would-be race track.
Since then, there has not been a single death on the coast road, even though it might just be a little bit too early to say.
Still, it’s clearly not the answer, with the Mriehel Bypass and the Regional Road Tunnel seeing deaths and injuries regularly despite having speed cameras for a number of years.
Unfortunately, it appears that most motorists quickly become accustomed to a speed camera’s location, slowing down when approaching before speeding up once they’ve passed it.
Most drivers clearly cheat the system and without proper enforcement deaths and serious injuries will continue to plague Malta’s streets.
Drivers in Malta continue to drive drunk or under the influence of drugs. Drivers use their phones and fail to act when dealing with fatigue or distraction.
In truth, the majority of accidents are preventable and their causes are well known. Still, we continue to ignore the rules while bodies pile up and family and friends are left distraught.
At the moment, Malta’s driving laws are not too dissimilar from those cringey anti-piracy adverts that flooded cinema screens. If laws are not enforced, then they simply will not be followed, no matter how much we try.
Breathalysers are still seldom used, while figures have improved. Meanwhile, traffic wardens and police continue to be ineffectual, as most drivers can attest. Far too often, main roads are filled with double-parked vehicles, while enforcement officials are conspicuous by their absence at accident hotspots.
Studies show that while speed cameras certainly do help, they should never be a replacement for enforcement that improves drivers’ safety more holistically across the entire road network.
It’s clear to most that the fear of being caught in the act and actually facing a penalty for it is far more effective.
Unfortunately, most drivers believe that their chances of being involved in a serious accident are low, but that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Speed limits, for example, are treated as a guideline and not a rule by Maltese drivers. Yet few realise that the likelihood of being involved in accidents that involve deaths or serious injuries increases massively with even the most minor increase in speed.
Research shows that even a 5% increase in speed over recommended speed limits leads to an increase of 22% in fatalities. The smallest changes can result in major consequences, that can hang over people for years.
For example, hitting a pedestrian or motorcyclist over 30 km/h with your car will likely result in their death or serious injury. Colliding with a tree or pole at anything above 40km/h will likely result in the driver’s death. When it comes to a head-on collision with another car, anything over 70 km/h will cause a fatality or injury.
Worryingly, studies show that while the community at large accepts that speed is an inevitable part of road safety, most are reluctant to actually lower their speeds. It’s only cyclists and pedestrians who generally support lower speed limits, mostly because they share the road with reckless drivers.
The conditions of Malta’s roads do not help. While there has certainly been an improvement in the road network, many roads remain riddled with potholes, while narrow roads see drivers performing reckless and dangerous overtakes. They certainly play a factor, as evidenced by a swathe of deaths on Xemxija Hill in 2020.
Former Prime Minister Joseph Muscat had once promised a draconian approach to drink driving and drivers safety. But more and more that seems like a false pledge designed to curry favour.
The government and the police continue to turn a blind eye. It’s time to start taking action.
Should there be more enforcement on Malta’s roads?