[WATCH] Road safety laws useless without proper enforcement, conference told

While Malta has the necessary laws in place, speakers at the International Road Safety Conference said that more needed to be done to enforce them

UN special envoy Jean Todt (left) with Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne
UN special envoy Jean Todt (left) with Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne

Traffic laws and regulations are an important first step in reducing road accidents and fatalities but they can only be effective if they are properly enforced, the International Road Safety Conference heard this morning.

The conference is being hosted by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister in collaboration with the World Health Organisation (WHO) as well as other international partners.

Organised on the World Day of Remembrance for Road Traffic Victims, the conference is being organised with the intention of brining entities working in this field together and to raise awareness on what can be done to save lives and prevent injuries on the road.

Addressing the event Jonathon Passmore, a programme manager at WHO’s Violence and Injury Prevention Unit, emphasised the need for a holistic approach to safety on the road.

He said Europe included both countries that were among the best performing in the world in this sector, as well as others that still had a lot more work to do.

Passmore pointed out that in Malta, traffic accidents are among the top ten causes of death for people aged below 49, adding that while Malta should be commended for the legislation it has put in place, it was also the only country in the EU that had not moved forward towards reaching its 2020 targets on traffic accidents.

“We sometimes forget that legislation is just the beginning…It must be stringently and consistently enforced,” he said.

Safety on the roads, he said, was as much transport and police issue as it was a public health one.

Deputy Prime Minister and Health minister Chris Fearne, addressing a press conference after the conference, stressed that most traffic accidents were preventable, especially those related to factors like drunk driving, fatigue or wearing safety equipment.

In this regard, he said the Maltese government was determined to hold as many educational campaigns as possible, while also improving existing legislation and the country’s road infrastructure.

In addition to dealing with present challenges, Fearne also said that Malta was determined to start preparing for the future.

With driverless cars set to be “the next big thing in road safety”, he said Malta would be at the forefront in regulating the use of artificial intelligence on the road, including any ethical implications there may be.

UN SG Special Envoy on Road Safety Jean Todt insisted that small countries like Malta were well positioned to achieve more than they have so far when it comes to road safety.

He too stressed that while laws and regulations were unpopular, they were also essential for progress to be registered.

Specifically, he pointed to speed, the use of helmets and safety belts, drink driving and texting while driving. “If you address and enforce all of these I can tell you that Malta would be close to having no fatalities or injuries on the road.”

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