Road deaths in Malta increased by 69 per cent between 2010 and 2016, with the country now faring worse than the EU average, new statistics show.

Preliminary data released by the European Commission, coinciding with a high-level conference on road safety in Malta, shows that road deaths across the EU dropped by 19 per cent over the last six years.

Only Malta and the Netherlands, which saw an increase of just three per cent, bucked the declining trend. The island saw the number of deaths per million inhabitants increase from 36 in 2010 to 51 last year.

Malta had been one of Europe’s top performers with steady declines prior to last year, when a record high of 23 people lost their lives.

Just today, we will lose another 70 lives on EU roads

The new figures put the island just above the EU average of 50 deaths per million – or about 26,000 deaths across Europe – although it is still the 10th safest member state.

The European Commissioner for Transport, Violeta Bulc, said the overall figures represented an improvement and a positive basis to step up efforts towards the EU target of halving the number of road deaths between 2010 and 2020.

“However, it’s not the figures that worry me the most but the lives lost and the families left behind,” Ms Bulc said. “Just today, we will lose another 70 lives on EU roads, and five-times as many will sustain serious injuries.”

She is in Malta attending a high-level stakeholder conference at the Corinthia Palace, Attard, bringing together industry figures, road safety experts and policy-makers as part of the Maltese European Council presidency.

The two-day conference, which began yesterday, will conclude with the endorsement of the Valletta Declaration, which establishes an ambitious road safety target for reducing the number of serious injuries by 2030 as well as setting out clear roles for the European Commission, member states, industry and civil society.

At a press conference, Ms Bulc highlighted the Vision Zero target of eliminating road deaths altogether by 2050, which, she said, remained feasible with an increased focus on awareness and steady advances in automation technology.

“We are already seeing technology in play that will pave the way towards autonomous driving by 2030, beyond which we will be pushing towards driverless cars,” Ms Bulc said.

“We will also be seeing different ways of organising urban mobility, including intelligent street signs and lights, which will reduce unpredictable driving in city rides.”

The United Nations special envoy on road safety, Jean Todt, highlighted the need to address basic safety factors such as seat belts, drink driving, mobile phone use and speeding as well as stepping up law enforcement.

Transport Minister Joe Mizzi said that, despite the best of efforts, the 2020 target of halving road deaths appeared less and less likely to be reached.

“It is only by a concerted effort and cooperation between all stakeholders that we can hope to achieve these targets,” he said, highlighting priority areas in vehicle safety and technology, road infrastructure, driver training, enforcement and education.

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