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Safe Passage - What should be the top three priorities to stop or, at least, lessen road fatalities?

My contribution in the Q&A feature in The Times of Malta, Saturday 29th Januray 2017

http://www.timesofmalta.com/articles/view/20170128/opinion/safe-passage.637799



The steady increase in road accidents and the resulting injuries and fatalities is not simply a perception but is proven by statistics.
Moreover, the disproportionate increase in motorcycle accidents, which is greater than the increase in the proportion of people using them, shows that motorcyclists and cyclists are more vulnerable. This needs to be addressed if we want to encourage people to move away from their cars and use these modes of transport to ease traffic congestion problems.
The Nationalist Party last year published a policy document entitled ‘Reducing traffic congestion’. Although its proposals aim to tackle traffic congestion, some of them overlap with improving road safety.
Decreasing the number of cars on the road is the most obvious way of reducing the number of accidents. Therefore, measures intended to encourage people to use different types of transport, like providing dedicated transport for students and government employees, incentivising motorbike and bicycle take-up schemes, car-sharing, voluntary opt-in schemes for selected-day car usage and increasing soft-node bicycle and walking lanes, intermodal systems and bus-to-bike-to-walk connection points are all positive proposals that can take people away from their cars, ease traffic and the associated road rage impatience, and reduce traffic accidents.
Another top priority is to increase investment aimed at improving our road infrastructure. Many road hazards exist because of lack of maintenance: potholes, debris and fuel spills can all be fatal for motorcyclists and cyclists and immediate response teams should be in place to address and clean up any such occurrences from our roads.
Moreover, an effort should be made to invest in suitable crash barriers, non-slippery road markings and ensure road surfaces in general are more resistant to our weather conditions.
A bigger effort should be made to educate road users and raise awareness on road safety. This needs to go hand-in-hand with enforcement. Unfortunately, no matter how many safety campaigns are run and how much money is spent in educating people, some will never listen unless they are disciplined for their erratic and dangerous behaviour.
There need to be tougher fines and licence suspensions for people caught using their mobile phones while driving. Same goes for those driving under the influence of alcohol.
The recent amendments on drink-driving are a positive initiative but, like all laws, unless these are properly enforced nothing will come out of them.
And what about double-parking? Have you ever tried counting the number of cars double-parked on our roads, closing a whole lane, simply because the driver did not feel like walking an extra couple of metres to buy his newspaper or breakfast pastizzi? And where are the local wardens and the police when they are really needed?
Switching on your hazard lights has become a free pass to park wherever you feel like, be it on the pavement, a double yellow-line or be even the middle of the road. Such haphazard parking causes motorcyclists and cars to drive the wrong way to overtake, increasing traffic hazards and traffic congestion.
It is not enough to enact laws. They need to be enforced. To do that we need to increase police presence on our roads.
This needs to be accompanied by education campaigns stressing the mutual respect required by all road users: pedestrians, motorcyclists, bikers and car drivers.
When crossing the road we should use traffic lights or zebra crossings, wherever available.
When overtaking motorcycles and bicycles, car drivers should leave them enough space to manoeuvre and motorcyclists need to remember that our roads are no racetrack.
If we are all better aware of how the way we behave may endanger others and be more respectful to each other, roads can become a safer place for everyone.

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