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All motorists are equal

It was proposed at the close of last year that commercial drivers ought to be treated differently from the rest under the penalty point system. Their representative organisation, the GRTU – Chamber of Small and Medium Enterprises, gave as reason for the proposal the fact that commercial drivers spend longer hours on the road than other motorists to earn their livelihood and were, therefore, at a higher risk of accumulating penalty points.

In its view, commercial drivers should be allocated a higher number of points. Most people – excepting, of course, the commercial drivers – could not disagree more with the GRTU on this. It is so out of sync with the general sentiment on the need for greater discipline on the road that it is surprising the GRTU even thought of putting it forward in the first place. If anything, commercial drivers, who are generally among the most errant road users, ought to give an example to the rest by being more careful and carry more responsibility given the type of vehicles they use.

No wonder their plea for preferential treatment has been dismissed out of hand by the public and that, apparently, completely disregarded in consultations on road safety last year.

The GRTU’s chief executive has complained that the recommendation for a distinction to be made between commuting motorists and those whose livelihood depended on driving had fallen on deaf ears. Did he really expect such an unworthy recommendation to be received favourably? It is certainly not in the community’s interest to discriminate between drivers when it comes to safety.

Were they to be afforded preferential treatment and given a higher number of points, the country would add another milestone on the way to the expanding rule of the jungle. When indiscipline on the road is so rampant, the last thing the country needs is to have a different set of rules for different categories of drivers. It is absurd even to think of such an idea.

The executive manager of the Malta Road Safety Council, Pierre Vella, could not have put it better when he said commercial drivers should be road safety ambassadors and not be given more room to break their driving obligations.

In case some feel inclined to think that Malta’s penalty point system is too harsh, Mr Vella said most countries had different point allocation schedules but all were definitely more severe when it came to commercial vehicles. So why should Malta be more lenient?

Some commercial drivers are so negligent it is high time there is in place a mechanism that could help make them more responsible on the road. Never mind their habit of parking their vehicle practically anywhere they please while they are on the job, clogging the roads and creating traffic jams, their errant driving behaviour poses serious risks not just to other drivers on the road but also, and sometimes particularly so, to pedestrians.

Strangely, illegal parking, surely one of the most common offences, has been excluded from the penalty point system. Using the mobile phone while driving is very common, as is anti-social behaviour.

Rather than recommending that commercial drivers be given higher points under the penalty point system, the GRTU ought to encourage its members to drive safely when doing their job.

This is a Times of Malta print editorial

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