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Discipline on the roads

Unfortunately, we Maltese seem to have a bad reputation as drivers, being regarded by many as cowboys of the streets and roads. Which is why I am sometimes surprised how such initiatives as speed cameras find so much opposition when these can contribute so much to more discipline on the roads and, therefore, more safety for both drivers and pedestrians.

I am all in favour of the installation of speed cameras because one has to admit that, yes, they do make drivers careful to avoid speeding and, let's face it, we Maltese only seem to learn through sanctions. Education is important but we have to be realistic and admit that, by itself, it will not lead to more disciplined drivers.

I am also worried by the alarming increase in the number of people who drive while speaking on their mobile phone. I was recently driving when I noticed that the car in front of me was swerving erratically from one lane to the other because the driver was speaking on his mobile phone and seemed oblivious to the fact that he was driving in a highly dangerous manner. It is high time that a campaign clamping down on such abuses is initiated.

Another problem that I see is the fact that the local warden system is operated rather haphazardly. Some people have learned to beat the system because they break the law on days and at times when local wardens do not operate in a particular area.

In the area where I live, I have never seen a warden on Sunday evenings. I am reliably informed that wardens do not operate there on Sundays. So what happens? Some people from outside the locality who visit the area on Sunday evenings have noticed this fact and thus park their cars on yellow lines, sometimes even hemming-in legally-parked cars in such a manner that, should the latters' owners need to use their cars in an emergency, they would have great difficulty in moving their cars without hitting the illegally-parked cars on the yellow lines. This abuse has been going on not only for weeks and months but for several years!

To add insult to injury, some time ago I saw a warden in the same area booking a pensioner on a weekday because his car had a very small part of it which protruded over the white lines. The pensioner protested but the warden was inflexible and booked him for the infringement. Yet, in the same area, the same people who have been abusing the system for such a long time still get away with it even as I write.

I am all for the local warden system and I feel that wardens are carrying out a good job but the system has to be operated more efficiently and effectively and not have local wardens always present at such places as roundabouts at peak times on weekdays and always conspicuously absent from other areas at other times and days.

I think it is also time that the traffic police deal with drivers who block traffic by driving at a snail's pace on the outer lane of a road, sometimes even chatting to a passenger to their heart's content while other drivers are held up on a lane whose main purpose is that of being used for overtaking. Such irresponsible drivers have caused many accidents, sometimes even fatal ones. Finding his/her way blocked by somebody who even ignores the hooting of the horn to make way, a person in a hurry, due to an emergency or some other reason, may try to overtake in a very risky and dangerous manner and finish up colliding with another car, with disastrous consequences.

I have hardly ever seen a driver who blocks the outer lane being spoken to by a member of the traffic police. If such a person were to be stopped and admonished on the potential danger of his/her actions, this would go a long way towards curbing such abuses.

Road rage is another worrying phenomenon these days. Today, even if you are involved in an ordinary bumper-to-bumper collision, you fear that the other driver might come at you, foaming at the mouth, and perhaps even assault you. How many such cases have we heard of recently? I know several people who carry a piece of wood or iron in their cars to be armed in case of such an eventuality. This is a very negative development and I am all for draconian sentences when somebody is found guilty of assaulting another person after a collision.

Discipline on Malta's streets and roads is in everybody's best interests. Let's all contribute towards such a desirable state of affairs.

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