A multi-pronged approach to reducing traffic accidents

Transport Malta will launch a campaign aimed at promoting caution and road safety awareness.

Maltese and Gozitan roads are a topic of widespread discussion, concerning traffic management, ongoing infrastructure works, and the causes of accidents.

The Government acknowledges these realities and is actively tackling key safety challenges. Transport Malta is taking steps to make a difference, and in the upcoming weeks, will launch a campaign aimed at promoting caution and road safety awareness.

Statistics obtained by The Journal provide a clear overview of the incidents that have occurred in the past five years.

We spoke with Architect Dr Audrey Demicoli, director in the Directorate of Integrated Transport Strategy. She told us that the campaign will not be a cosmetic exercise or a public relations exercise, but will be a scientific one based on information collected from road accidents.

While Transport Malta follows European directives, each country would do well to have a personalised campaign, based on specific realities. “If we do not plan a campaign to address real problems we are facing, we will not see results,” said the architect. Of course, each campaign varies in style – whether it is based on logic, or one that presses on deterrence to commit a contravention; whether it will be emotional, or a campaign with a combination of these elements.

The architect explained that the current road safety strategy covers from 2014 to 2024, so work is being done to revise and update it in a way that leads to the next decade. A strategy focused on four pillars will remain: safer vehicles, enforcement, safer infrastructure and education.

Dr Audrey Demicoli

Dr Demicoli said that Transport Malta is currently continuing to improve the implementation of the Road Safety Infrastructure Directive, with exercises such as road safety audits and impact assessments, among others. The work of the Directorate of Integrated Transport Strategy is being strengthened thanks to the awareness of professionals, who are working on focused targets and strategies.

A key facet of the Integrated Transport Strategy Directorate is the audit of inspections. In other words, not only are inspections carried out by Transport Malta officials, but they are also audited, to ensure that everything is in line with the Road Safety Infrastructure Directive.

While Transport Malta officials carry out inspections on road works, they follow established guidelines. When visiting a particular site, they see, among others, that barriers, signs and cones are in the right place, so that the site is as safe as possible. They also ensure that there is enough space for people to pass through and where possible bicycles.

The architect said that every work carried out on arterial roads and roads financed by the European Union must have an inspector who monitors it. Apart from this, information resulting from accidents is examined, so that Transport Malta can identify more delicate places, or so-called black spots.

From an educational point of view, Transport Malta is seeking to educate its own workers, besides organising training sessions for its partners. It also provides training to public works workers. This besides training people of all ages, from children to elderly people.

To this end it has several training resources. Architect Demicoli explained that while the methodology is adapted according to age, the principles on safety remain the same.

Among secondary school students, the atitude is one that combines traditional learning with road reality, for example by understanding how traffic mirrors work and by exploring how decibels work to measure noise. Among the interesting initiatives that will be held among children, there is what is called cycling rodeo: an event designed to teach safety skills in cycling.

When asked about the most dangerous behaviours on Maltese and Gozitan roads, the architect identified the following as the top causes of danger, in order of severity:

  1. Overspeeding
  2. Using mobile phones while driving
  3. Drink-driving

In light of the widespread use of mobile apps for navigation, drivers are advised to follow directions audibly rather than looking at maps on their mobile phones. The director of Transport Malta explained that despite increased penalties for using mobile phones while driving, which initially reduced such violations, the issue remains problematic.

Asked whether he is noticing trends in road accidents, the architect said that vulnerable road users, including pedestrians, motorcyclists and cyclists, are the most prone to accidents. Indeed, one of the main revisions in the Road Safety Infrastructure Directive is precisely to safeguard such users.

The architect highlighted several common mistakes people make regarding road safety. One major issue is choosing where to cross the road, with some mistakenly believing corners are safer, which is not true. Additionally, many pedestrians, especially older individuals, often focus on where they are walking rather than on approaching vehicles, posing a significant danger.

Another overlooked factor is understanding the visibility limitations of vehicles, particularly those with no rear windows.

Furthermore, attention is needed when driving or walking near forklifts commonly seen around supermarkets and businesses. The director explained that people often underestimate the forks of these vehicles, increasing the risk of accidents.

Interestingly, the age group responsible for the most accidents is neither new drivers nor elderly drivers, but individuals aged between 27 and 44. Surprisingly, trucks are among the least frequently involved vehicles in traffic accidents.

In 2023, there were 8 collisions involving injuries where trucks were implicated. However, delivery vans, which do not require a specialised licence, were involved in 73 such collisions. Taxis were involved in 50 collisions resulting in injuries, while ambulances were involved in 7.

This table shows offences related to the use of mobile phones and other driving meters.

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