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Making a difference - Ray Gatt

In a recent perceptive article by Deputy Prime Minister Chris Fearne (November 18), the issue of road safety in Malta was expounded to give the clearest of messages.

It was refreshing to see that our elected representatives do realise that we have a major problem which is causing undue harm to our citizens and our nation. Lives, most at a very young age, are being lost needlessly.

The consequent grief and sorrow are life-changing for their loved ones. 

Statistics unfortunately are not in our favour. Nineteen lives were lost in 2017 and another 16 were lost in the first three quarters of this year.  This is the second most common cause of death in the 15 to 35 year age-group.

 Eurostat data reveals that Malta is the only EU country which actually registered an increase in mortality between 2010 and 2016. However, mortality figures show only the tip of the iceberg. Beneath lie the pain and suffering, health complications and disabilities caused by these accidents.

 These tend not to make the news,  but the cost and economic burden to the victims and their families, institutions and health system, and ultimately to the country, is enormous.

Once we have recognised that we have a problem and clearly defined its extent, it is our duty to find solutions. Fearne clearly outlines the three fundamental principles which should be followed when decisions involving transportation and mobility are taken.

The first is that human life is always the first priority in this process, second that all humans are fallible and so safer systems should be introduced, and third that the fragile human body should be protected by appropriate infrastructure planning.

Human life is always the first priority in this process, second that all humans are fallible and so safer systems should be introduced

A lot of work has been done over the past few years in recognition of the above. In 2014, the Road Safety Strategy for the 10-year period 2014-24 was launched, together with the setting up of the Road Safety Council.

The Transport Ministry together with the council have already done a lot of good work, and systems have since been set up to address the problem. The bold target to decrease road accident deaths by 50 per cent is however hardly within reach.

Towards the middle of this strategy, it might be time to revise how we are tackling the problem and ensure that these systems reach their full potential, new systems are introduced, and those which are not working reviewed.

Fearne ends his article by calling for road safety to be a shared responsibility.

Doctors for Road Safety fully endorses this message, and believe that this is the opportune moment for it to be followed up.  We now call for these wordsto be translated into action, which will yield results by committing more resources to address this problem and ensure collaboration.

The latter might be challenging when the solutions to the problem have to come from the various ministries, government departments and non-governmental stakeholders involved.

Achieving such collaboration might merit an entity which has road safety as its sole portfolio and agenda.

This might come in the form of a widening of the role of the Road Safety Council, which currently has an educational and advisory capacity, to a more regulatory and executive function.

Such entity would ensure that road safety standards and targets are met and that all stakeholders are delivering.

Finally, collaboration and alliance between NGOs and other non-statutory bodies which hold road safety in their mission, needs to become stronger. We feel that the momentum on this problem is building from both the government and civil society.

It is truly time to make this carnage on our roads a thing of the past.

Ray Gatt is president, Doctors for Road Safety.

This is a Times of Malta print opinion piece

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