New road safety strategy aims at reducing traffic fatalities by half

New road safety strategy foresees a review of the current VRT and driving tests amongst other proposals.

Malta may have the fourth lowest rate of traffic fatalities per capita in the European Union, but this did not stop the government to launch a 10-year road safety strategy, aiming to reduce traffic fatalities by half by 2024.

The strategy also aims to reduce grievous injuries caused by traffic accidents by 30% and slight injuries by 20%.

Transport Minister Joe Mizzi said the strategy focused on key areas which evidently needed intervention, citing the Coast Road, the Addolorata junction in Marsa and the Mriehel Bypass as examples.

"Malta has a very low road accident fatality per capita, but having said that, there is still room for improvement. The life of each and every individual is invaluable for my government. A case in point is the government's pledge to build the pedestrian bridge in Mriehel bypass. Although several fatalities took place there during the years, the previous government ignored this issue for years, saying the investment was not worthwhile," the transport minister underlined.

The road safety strategy provides specific objectives on six areas, namely safer roads, safer speeds, collosions and casualties, enforcement, safer vehicles and safer road users.

Among the proposals, the strategy calls for the prohibition of learner drivers and heavy vehicles from using arterial roads from Monday to Saturday during peak hours. For safer speeds, the strategy aims to establish more 30km/h speed limit zones in urban areas while intends to promote other traffic calming measures other than the typical round topped road hump.

The strategy launched, which will be open for discussion, also plans to review the VRT to improve its effectiveness. This will include more frequent tests on older vehicles and further training for testers. This would go hand-in-hand with other measures that aim to reduce the average age of the vehicle fleet in Malta. 

Regards enforcement, the strategy aims to strengthen random breathalyser and drug tests. It also promotes application of alcohol interlocks to convicted drink drivers. The interlock is a vehicle electronic device that detects alcohol levels through breath samples, and if alcohol is detected the vehicle would not start.

The 83-page document considers the driving test as inadequate and thus will seek to introduce ongoing assessments of driving instructors and improve their minimum requirements, including level of education and experience. To encourage instructors to increase their level of training, an accreditation system will be introduced to recognise the improvement.

The minimum age to start training will likely go down from 18 to 17, to encourage a longer learning period and 'reduce the urgency of obtaining a driving licence within weeks.'

Over the past decade, there has been a total of 166 fatalities as a result of road accidents. 2012 recorded the lowest figure with nine fatalities while 2009 registered the highest with 21 fatalities.

In the past five years, three in every four fatalities were males (76.6%) which shows that males are more prone to road injuries and fatalities, possibly due to differences in attitudes of males in comparison to females, related to speeding, drinking and driving and road safety awareness.

According to data compiled by the Malta Police and analysed by the National Statistics Office (NSO) and Transport Malta, the majority of both casualties and fatalities were recorded in the 25-39 age bracket. In fact, 30% of fatalities recorded between 2008 and 2012 belonged to this age group followed by the 40-59 age bracket with 25%.

The data also confirms that the highest number of road casualties were recorded on Saturday and Sunday, which may be attributed to the fact that during the weekend there is a higher risk of ‘drinking and driving’ and over-speeding.